A shift of focus: new PLD priorities

By Anna Sullivan on May 20, 2019 in Leadership

Professional learning and development acts as a significant driver in school improvement.

Leaders in schools, kura, and Kāhui Ako know this and ensure that PLD is well-designed to meet the changing needs of their ākonga.

The Ministry of Education have proposed new priorities for English-medium and Māori-medium locally-focussed PLD. These are important to know about because they determine what PLD applications will be funded.

They have proposed moving away from specific areas of learning: pāngarau and maths; pūtaiao and science; te reo matatini (pānui, tuhituhi, kōrero), reading and writing, and digital fluency.

The proposed national PLD priorities for English medium are:

  • Cultural capability

  • Local curriculum design

  • Using information to support learning.

Locally focused English medium priorities

The proposed national PLD priorities for Māori-medium are:

  • Marau ā-kura

  • Matauranga Māori

  • Aromatawai.

Locally focused Maori medium priorities

By design, the new PLD priorities should focus on progress across the curriculum and the core capabilities to improve teaching and learning. Many schools/kura span both English-medium and Māori-medium settings, and as such it will be important for these school leaders to consider both sets of priorities in their context.These new priorities aren’t final yet. A consultation process has been undertaken and it is possible that we may see some refinements to the priorities. The summary of the feedback will be released sometime in the next few weeks.

Once finalised, the PLD priorities determine the focus PLD applications need to have to be successful. While these are not yet finalised, I think it is important that leaders start to grapple with the new priorities so that you’re well placed to make an application in the latter stages of the year.

Evaluation Associates | Te Huinga Kākākura Mātauranga works in partnership with schools, kura, and Kāhui Ako to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate locally-focussed PLD. We hold ourselves to high standards, and we know that know that things have improved for students, teachers, and leaders in the schools, kura, and Kāhui Ako where we work.

Where to start with locally-focussed PLD?

The proposed PLD changes are not something for school leaders to be worried about; instead, take time to understand the proposed changes and think about how to respond to them.

If you are thinking about applying for PLD, then it will be important for you to be thinking about:

  • What do we need to focus on in our school, kura, or Kāhui Ako?

  • What evidence do we have or need to have to better understand the opportunity or problem that exists?

  • How can we describe what success will look like for us if we undertake PLD in this area – for learners, for teachers, for leaders, and for us as a school/community?

One of the new foci, using information to support learning, is essential irrespective of which priority or priorities you eventually focus on. Being evaluative is at the start and heart of any good process; gathering the information to understand what is worth focusing on, understanding what the actual need is, and starting the process of thinking about what better might look like. You don’t have to have all of the answers as you start thinking about PLD but using information to support learning is essential to develop a robust approach to the learning of your staff.

Making good use of the PLD priorities

To get the most out of your PLD, rather than simply saying ‘it is time we had a look at our curriculum’, your application will be undoubtedly be strengthened by being able to say ‘this is what we know about our current curriculum, this is what we think needs attention or improvement and this is the evidence we have, from multiple sources and perspectives, that this need is valid’. A much more evaluative stance.

Let’s take curriculum or marau ā-kura as an example. If you were to apply for PLD in this area, what evidence would you want to have about why this was something that you needed to focus on. The following questions may help you to think about the kind of information that you’d need to be thinking about in advance of your application:

  • Do you have a perspective from families, whanau, runanga and/or iwi – how well do they think your current curriculum meets the strengths, needs and aspirations of their tamariki?

  • What about learner voice – what do they think about curriculum as it stands?

  • What are the perspectives of your teachers and leaders – what do they think is important to focus on? What do they perceive is working well in relation to curriculum and where do they see room for improvement?

  • Does reviewing your current practice in relation to the key points raised in the Local Curriculum Design guide (English-medium resource) provide useful pointers?

  • Would it be useful for you to review your curriculum in relation to the cultural competencies listed in Tātaiako as a potential framework for review?

  • Has ERO given any feedback in relation to your curriculum in recent times?

What about if you are considering using information to support learning and aromatawai? Perhaps you are wanting to focus on what progress looks like across the curriculum.

Are you in a position to describe where you are now, and where you would like to be? Or if you don’t know where you’d like to be, then this is pretty important to be able to describe as well. For example:

Currently we have high quality information about our learners’ progress in writing, reading, and mathematics.  We think that being able to understand learning and progress across the curriculum seems very important, but this is also overwhelming for us. We need assistance from an expert, who can help us think about a meaningful and manageable way to do this. We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater – we want to build on what’s going well for us already.

If, as another example, you are wanting to focus on improving the capability of team members to use te reo Māori (in either medium) what evidence do you have about this need? Whose perspective have you included in identifying the nature of this need? What is the perspective of local iwi or runanga on what good would look like in this regard? Do you know for example, whether Māori learners perceive that their and teachers and classmates are correctly pronouncing their names and other Māori kupu?

Changes to the PLD application process

These new priorities are going to be timed to coincide with an improved PLD application process which the Ministry is designing based on feedback from the sector regarding concerns about the PLD journal system.  This will be a welcome change for all involved I am sure. A refined PLD journal system will enable more leaders in schools, kura, and Kāhui Ako to confidently apply for locally-focussed PLD. I have seen screenshots of a prototype and it certainly seems that it will be a significant improvement and so much easier to use.

Once the new priorities are confirmed and you are ready to delve into the PLD application process, our team at Evaluation Associates | Te Huinga Kākākura Mātauranga can assist. We have facilitators across the country who expertly bring their evaluative thinking and can help form a theory of change.

The proposed new priorities are broad and allow schools and kura to determine their particular needs in relation to these priorities. This is a fantastic opportunity for schools, kura, and Kāhui Ako to construct PLD which really meets the needs of their ākonga. If you are planning to apply for PLD then it will be timely for you to have conversations about what information you need to be able to apply with confidence, knowing that what you’ve applied for is worthy of intensive, longitudinal focus.

Find out more about the proposed PLD changes here.


Kōrero Mātauranga: Curriculum, Progress and Achievement: https://conversation.education.govt.nz/conversations/curriculum-progress-and-achievement/

Professional learning and development – proposed priorities for English medium and proposed priorities for Māori medium. Available here:


To learn more about the new PLD priorities get in touch

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