A Review of the Education External Evaluation Services

Brian Donnelly Education Review Office


1 Appointment of the Panel

The three members
of the Panel, Hon Margaret Austin, Associate Professor Wayne Edwards
and Apryll Parata-Blane were appointed on July 1, 1997 to undertake
a Review of the External Evaluation System in New Zealand. It was expected
that the Review would take three months but, due to the intervention
of the July school holidays, the Panel was unable to begin its work
until July 22. Consequently, the completion date was extended
to mid-October.

2 Acknowledgement

The Panel wish
to thank everyone who contributed to the development of this report.
We were particularly appreciative of the open, frank and forthright
manner in which the Chief Review Officer of the Education Review Office
and the Secretary for Ministry of Education responded to requests for
information and meetings. The assistance and support offered by
the staff from these respective agencies was appreciated.

To those who
made submissions, attended hearings and who provided additional supporting
material; Trustees, Principals and Centre Managers who made the effort
to attend meetings, sometimes at great inconvenience and short notice,
thank you.

A very special
thank you to our executive assistant, Marion Hyland, for the cheerful,
patient and purposeful manner in which she worked in the background.

Tena koutou,
tena koutou tena rawa atu koutou katoa.

3 Process

calling for written submissions were placed in the urban and provincial
daily newspapers and in the New Zealand Education Gazette. 261
submissions were received (Appendix 1). The major stakeholders in education
were invited to make submissions and were offered the opportunity to
appear before the Panel to make oral submissions. Those who did,
along with those invited to do so by the Panel, are recorded in Appendix

In order to
ensure coverage of the whole country, as well as give people an opportunity
to comment personally on their review experiences, the Panel arranged
a series of meetings for Boards of Trustees, Principals and Centre Managers.
(Appendix 2.) These meetings gave valuable insights into the Panel's
understanding of the issues and an appreciation of the range of perspectives
and concerns which would have to be considered. The opportunity
for discussion, as part of the consultation process for this review,
should not be underestimated. The Panel was impressed with the
thoughtfulness and the objectivity of the views expressed, and the willingness
of groups and individuals to engage in worthwhile discussion of ways
to resolve the issues which were raised. Reflection, perception
and conviction are qualities which characterise the stakeholders'
commitment to improving education outcomes. The comments from
these submissions and meetings are summarised in Appendix 3.

4 Issues Paper

The first task
undertaken by the Panel was to prepare an Issues Paper which was sent
to the major stakeholders and made available to those who requested
it. The following headings were included along with questions to consider:

  • Issues relating
    to the role of the Education Review Office,
  • Issues relating
    to the context in which the Education Review Office operates,
  • Functions carried
    out by the Education Review Office and
  • The Education Review
    Office's processes and methodology.

The Terms of
Reference were detailed, including matters the Review Panel was to consider
and the assumptions on which the review was based. (Appendix 4.)

5 Research

The Panel has
been fortunate in having access to Education Review Office documents
(including annual reports, handbooks which inform the review process
and reviews of the Office itself), OECD papers, relevant research reports,
and published books and articles on School Effectiveness, Evaluation
and Improvement.

It is clear
that there is a world wide movement examining educational effectiveness,
improvement and outcomes. Student achievement, skills development
and the quality of learning are critical to preparing young people for
the new millennium. Parents and the broader community are looking
for better quantitative and qualitative information about children's
education and the performance of schools. They want to be assured
that the performance indicators used to measure the quality of education
provision will stand up to scrutiny, both within New Zealand and internationally.

6 Discussion

The Panel believes
this review is timely. It has facilitated assessment of work being
done by the Education Review Office against the framework for school
improvement, an area in which momentum is gathering in international

The Education
Review Office is the State's Agent, auditing against the State's
expectations of the performance of schools and early childhood centres.
Audit always make people nervous, mainly because of the risk of exposure
and vulnerability when the report is made public. The Panel's
concern has been to focus on the benefit of review as a positive exercise
rather than a threatening one; assuring and confirming schools and centres
about their performance, as well as evaluating and providing critical
analysis. There is some way to go for the Education Review Office
to be regarded as a critical friend but the Panel is convinced
that many of its recommendations will contribute to this desirable outcome.

The Education
Review Office is charged with reviewing the systems and performance
of schools and centres in order to assess their effectiveness, efficiency
and the extent to which schools and centres have achieved their
desired outcomes. However, there is a lack of understanding among
the practitioners of the nature of audit as it applies to schools and

It is apparent
from the submissions received that, providing guidelines are developed
and assistance given where it is called for, there is a willingness
on the part of the vast majority of schools and centres to take the
next steps towards enhanced self-management. Schools and Early
Childhood Centres have undergone a transformation in the last seven
years. They have responded extraordinarily well to the challenges
of reform, the pace of change and the variable nature of changes in
the social climate within New Zealand.

The Panel believes
that self-management for some 85% of schools and centres is successfully
in place. Principals and Boards in this category are ready to
adopt rigorous and robust self-review as the vehicle for self improvement.
The remaining 15% or so of schools and centres, typically those of rural
and/or low socio-economic status, need additional support to meet the
challenges of being self-managing.

The NZ Country
Paper to the OECD Conference (March 1995) states that;

    teachers were concerned that they would lose some of their autonomy
    as a result of the reforms, this has not happened. They have,
    however, had their responsibilities and accountabilities increased.
    With an increased emphasis on teamwork, better quality management, a
    stronger outcome orientation, and a more relevant curriculum, the stage
    is set for the establishment of a better teaching environment and more
    effective schools.'

The Panel regards
this review as being a significant contribution to this environment.

New Zealand
is delivering a quality of education where participation in a wide range
of activities is a feature and where opportunities to proceed to further
education are being taken up in increasing numbers. However, there
is no room for complacency; we can and must do better. While there
are issues to be addressed, it would be fair to say that we do not celebrate
our achievements to the extent to which we ought.

A critical
issue in embracing self-improvement through self-review centres on the
quality of Advisory Services. There is no suggestion that the
Education Review Office has a role in providing advice and guidance.
They can, however, act as a broker, providing information about the
range of services that might be explored, depending on the nature
of the problem.

The Panel believes
the review process must recognise and enhance the professionalism of
principals and teachers, acknowledge the art, craft and reflective nature
of teaching and play a role in promoting teaching as a research-informed

The Panel is
encouraged by the Education Review Office's intention to undertake
Accountability Reviews only, as from 1998. The primary focus of such
reviews must be 'educational effectiveness' and not compliance
with the raft of Legislative requirements which can be covered through
the Board Declaration document.

The independence
and governance function of Boards of Trustees and Early Childhood Associations
is assured. As the focus of attention of the Education Review
Office, they are often uncertain about the Office's expectations of
them. The Panel believes the Ministry of Education should make
available appropriate performance indicator examples and guidelines
for the schools' and centres' use when developing their internal
processes of self-review for self-improvement.

The Education
Review Office has commented on a number of occasions on the absence
of performance standards and benchmarks against which their measurements
of effectiveness can be made. This deficiency has contributed
to tension and frustration for all concerned, which is unproductive
and unhelpful. Now is the time to put significant effort into
these developments. Delays will only compound the problems currently
being experienced.

During the
course of its hearings and deliberations, the Panel identified a number
of issues, on some of which comment will be made and, where appropriate,
recommendations for action will be suggested. Such issues include:

  • Schools and centres
    must have access to support systems.
  • Quality advice and
    guidance are essential to the efficient and effective development of
    the self-management system.
  • Formal and informal
    training for principals and senior managers in schools and centres must
    be accessible and affordable.
  • Schools and centres
    need to be assured that pre-service education equips beginning teachers
    with recognised and accepted core competencies.
  • Schools and centres
    need to have agreed criteria and to develop indicators of performance
    standards and benchmarks against which their effectiveness can be measured.