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Inside Classrooms: New Zealand


Lucy is a teacher on an educational mission to give some insights on education in top performing systems from a teacher's perspective. Over the next 9 months, she will work in schools in 8 systems that do well in the international PISA rankings and blog about it at This series of blogs for edapt presents some of her findings as 'A day in the life of a teacher'.

Along with Finland and Shanghai, New Zealand is often seen as a top performing education system. So what are its teachers doing? 

NZ Net teaching time per year  approx 850 hours
(OECD ave is 700)
Estimated average class size  23.3
(initial/after 15 yrs)
£17,300/25,600 (primary),
£17,300/25,900 (lower sec),
£17,350/26,200 (upper sec)

Salary: Salaries are similar to the OECD average, and are based on national pay scales. Relevant qualifications and extra responsibilities generate additional payment.

Class sizes: Class sizes are typically above the OECD average of 17.1, but are still smaller than England's (26.1). Last year the government rescinded plans to increase class sizes after polls suggested the party was losing support over the issue.

Pay progression: To progress to the next rung of the pay scale, teachers must show that they have met the relevant professional standards. Teachers can reach the top of the pay scale in a minimum of seven years.

A day in the life of a teacher

6.30 Alarm. Get dressed, apply sun cream, eat cereal. Drive to school.

7.30 Get to school. Make the most of having an uninterrupted hour and get most of my year 9 reports written.

8.30 Professional development. It's Friday, so the students all come in after period 1 so that we can have focused time for PD. This doesn't happen in every school, but it's becoming more common. Today we've been feeding back to our PD groups on the classroom enquiries we undertook this term.

9.30 Year 11 Science. Year 11 are all working towards Level 1, NCEA (our national assessment system). The levels aren't subject specific; the 80 credits needed to achieve level 1 can come from any number of subjects. I have six students back from study leave who are doing new internals (similar to coursework) to make up their credits. About 70% of our yr11s will achieve the credits required for L1 this year, the rest will continue working towards it in yr12.

10.30 Form time. Once announcements are over, I spend the time chatting to the kids. I think relationships are fundamental to students' success at school - they need to know someone is rooting for them.

11.00 Morning tea. Cheese and crackers in the staff room. Catch up with another teacher to confirm whether my student had really been given permission to miss PE, or if she was just making it up. She was making it up.

11.20 Year 10 Science. This is the advanced group, so they've taken a L1 internal' exam already which involved them carrying out and writing up a Physics experiment. Under the assessment rules, students on a grade borderline are allowed to make changes once it's marked and have their marks adjusted, which is what we're doing today. I can't tell them what to change, just what objective they haven't met. There were some tears from those who didn't get a merit.

12.20 Co-construction meeting. At the end of each term all teachers of each class sit down together for a period to analyse the class data, and share with each other strategies that did work with that class and strategies that didn't. This time it's 9B1. All meetings start with a Maori Whakatauke (proverb) that best reflects the class that term.


1.20 Lunch. Twenty minute break in which I sit with the other Science teachers in the Science staff room, eat my salad (it's tricky when you have beach season and Christmas at the same time), and negotiate room changes for next year. Then off to lunch duty.

2.00 Year 12 Chemistry (observation). I have a colleague coming to observe this lesson as part of our professional learning group programme. She is a History teacher, so she will focus on my pedagogy rather than the content. I've asked her to look at my use of questioning, and we'll have the chance to discuss it in next Fridays PD session. We don't grade teachers in New Zealand.

3.00 Tongan dance group. We have many different co-curricular activities at our school, including those that celebrate all the different cultures present at our school. I supervise the Tongan dance group, although the students are self motivated and don't need my help much.

3.30. Marking and planning. I have a reduced timetable at the moment as the year 11s, 12s and 13s are on study leave, so I can plan Monday and Tuesday's lessons now and not take anything home with me, which is unusual. I'll stay a little longer now and adjust the yr10 internal marks too where they've managed to improve them.

5.30. Home time. Beach time!


Editor's note: This is not a real day in the life of a teacher, but is based on real days from real teachers, with some added notes for clarification. 

Have a look at the other countries so far in Lucy's series:

Edapt is a trade union alternative providing individual support and protection for teachers in allegations and employment issues - sign up

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