Tukunga pāpāho

Watershed plan to end streaming in schools released

20 Pou 2023

NZEI Te Riu Roa welcomes ‘Kōkirihia – The plan for removing streaming from our schools’ which was launched today in Christchurch to an enthusiastic audience of educators.

‘Kōkirihia’ outlines the steps for a cross-sector strategy to eliminate damaging streaming and ability grouping from our education system by 2030.

The plan was led by social innovation lab Tokona Te Raki, a team of Māori future makers operating under the mana of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu. It brought together key education organisations NZEI Te Riu Roa, PPTA Te Wehengarua, the Ministry of Education, the Mātauranga Iwi Leaders Group, NZQA, the Education Review Office and Principals’ organisations.

Tokona Te Raki became aware of the damage caused by streaming when researching their 2019 report ‘He Awa Ara Rau’. What they found was that streaming, and ability grouping was a huge barrier to equity and lead to bad outcomes for learners, most particularly Māori and Pasifika students.

After following up with their 2020 report ‘Ending Streaming in Aotearoa’, Tokona Te Raki were approached by the Mātauranga Iwi Leaders and the Ministry of Education to undertake the project.

President of NZEI Te Riu Roa, Mark Potter, called ‘Kōkirihia’ a “watershed moment” in the history of public education in Aotearoa.

“Many schools are already well on their own journey to ending ability grouping, so there is a wide awareness of the work it requires. It is a big shift for any school to make, but it’s the right thing to do – as educators, we are used to changing what we do to reflect best practice.”

Potter said he was looking forward to seeing more government investment in support of the change.

“What the report makes clear is that this requires investment from the government in quality professional learning and the release time needed for teachers to do it.”


Notes to editor

‘Kōkirihia – The plan for removing streaming from our schools’ gathers research and evidence about the effects of streaming on students.

Some interesting facts gathered from the report:

  • From their early years at primary school, students are placed into harmful fixed-ability groups for subjects such as maths and reading. Once in these groups, whether it be the top or bottom group, this is where they are likely to stay for the remainder of their primary and secondary education. A child’s career path and future life opportunities have been determined by the age of six. While the negative impacts are widespread among all demographics, the research shows that streaming is particularly damaging for Māori and Pacific children. The result is an education system with huge disparities and inequities.
  • The research evidence is unequivocal that fixed ability grouping in any form does not work for the vast majority, and any advantages for high achievers are minimal. Here in Aotearoa, those most detrimentally affected are Māori and Pacific, as they are more likely to be incorrectly placed in lower ability groups and streams than Pākehā and Asian students. The evidence clearly shows that when students are taught in mixed but flexible achievement groups and have teachers who expect all students to make large gains, they often surpass even their teachers’ elevated expectations.
  • The lineage of streaming is clearly linked to notions of race and class, and the associated early bias and prejudice that sought to create privileged access and opportunities for some groups, while relegating others to lower paid jobs and status in our society – prejudice and practices go hand-in-hand.
  • Streaming is the practice and beliefs based on perceptions of learner ability that are used to channel learners into prescribed learning environments (subjects, vocations, schools, classes, and groups) without accounting for their holistic potential. These practices and beliefs significantly impact learner self-esteem, self-belief, and potential, and create trauma. Streaming inhibits student choice, social cohesion, success, and actualisation of student potential to be confident citizens of Aotearoa.