Primary school entry assessment in New Zealand

Full reference
Boereboom, J. & Cramman, H. (2018). Primary school entry assessment in New Zealand. NZ International Research in Early Childhood Education Journal, 21(1), 47 - 61.  Retrieved from

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Original Research Paper
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Primary school entry assessment in New Zealand

John Boereboom 
University of Canterbury, NZ

Helen Cramman
Durham University, UK



There is a wide range of assessment tools used by schools to assess children at school entry in New Zealand. The lack of consistency of uptake and reporting of results leads to sporadic national data. This highlights a need for a national standardised assessment which can be used as a reliable baseline of what New Zealand children know when they start school and how they progress in their first year. The Performance Indicators in Primary Schools (PIPS) assessment is a valid, reliable and internationally respected school entry assessment. The Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at the University of Canterbury used PIPS to collect data on 3916 students' early literacy and numeracy skills when they started school and followed up on their progress 12 months later. This provides a useful baseline of the literacy and numeracy skills New Zealand children have when they start school. The data is useful for the early identification of special learning needs and can be used to gauge the effectiveness of year 1 programmes.

Key words: School entry assessment, PIPS, baseline data.



In New Zealand children can start school on their fifth birthday and do not have to wait till the start of the next school year. Schooling is compulsory from age six but children can start primary school anytime between the ages of five and six years.  A law change will allow schools from this year to individually decide to implement cohort entry of children at the start of term closest to their 5th birthday, which for some children may mean starting school before they are five. 

Children start school at different times during the year at different stages of development and school readiness. They have different learning needs and progress at different rates. This provides a challenge for the Year 1 teacher. Assessment on school entry can provide informative data on the learning needs of children when they start school. The entrance assessment data provides information on the strengths and developmental needs of each child starting school and provides a baseline for individualised educational planning. This can inform the provision of targeted support for children who need specific kinds of learning experiences, children who without support might be more vulnerable to the demands of formal schooling, or children who have particular experiences prior to school entry.

More than two decades of research has shown that school entry literacy and numeracy skills are a reliable predictor of future academic success. In particular, children’s letter recognition and phonological awareness are potent predictors of later reading success (Lonigan, Burgess & Anthony, 2000). Likewise mathematical skills like counting that children have when they enter school are strong predictors of future mathematics achievement (Nguyen, et al., 2016).


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