With a General Election looming, Education Review asked political and sector leaders for their respective thoughts on the direction that New Zealand education should be taking.
Hon Hekia Parata
Minister of Education
All the Government’s education policies share a common theme – lifting the educational achievement of all children and young people.
In my last year as Education Minister I want to continue on this important journey and leave in place a reconfigured 21st-century education system fit for future generations.
Since becoming Education Minister in 2011 I have made sure the needs of all students are at the centre of everything we do. They’re the reason behind all that we have done and will continue to do in 2017.
Te Whāriki for early childhood education will be updated, new modern schools and classrooms will be opened for learning and the old legislation that governs the sector will get its most meaningful change in 30 years. We will continue to support the growth of Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako which are a new and collaborative way of working to support every child along their learning pathway.
The Education Funding System Review explores how the spending of more than $11 billion on education each year can be improved. It is vital that the right resources get to the right child at the right time. We aim to achieve better lines of sight over what is being spent and where. I want to find a better way than the decile system to support those who need it the most. I also want to improve the way that students and their families get access to Learning Support (special education).
We know that the quality of the teaching has the biggest in-school influence on student success.
So we will continue to support the Education Council, invest in professional learning and development and host the Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards to celebrate the best in our education system.
So there is a lot planned, a lot to do and all of it to give our kids the best possible education. Now that’s a job well worth doing!
Education spokesperson, Labour Party
Every child deserves a quality education that allows them not only to achieve their full potential but also to discover potential they didn’t even know that they had.
That means we need an education system that embraces diversity, recognises that every child is different, and acknowledges that success means different things to different people.
We have a world-class education system staffed with passionate and committed teachers and support staff, but it is increasingly being smothered by a low-trust, audit-focused accountability system that presumes the only measures of progress that matter are those that can be neatly plotted on a standardised chart.
At a government level, education policy has become so focused on getting kids to pass tests that we’ve lost sight of the critical role our schools, early childhood education services, and tertiary education providers have in developing well-rounded citizens.
Technology and globalisation is dramatically changing the way we live our lives and our education system needs to change to keep up
The days when schools could act as large filtering mechanisms churning out an appropriate number of compliant workers at stratified skill levels are well and truly over.
Critical thinking, problem solving, interpersonal skills, resilience, and self-awareness are more important than ever, yet they are woefully undervalued in education policy.
Labour will return the focus back to a broad and varied curriculum. We will restore trust and collaboration and unleash the creative potential that is currently being stifled.
Labour will invest in programmes that we know make a difference. Recruiting, retaining, and providing regular professional development to the very best teachers will be our highest priority. We will return control of the Education Council to the profession through democratic elections.
We recognise that the whole system is creaking under the strain of under-funding. We will make sure schools, early childhood education services and tertiary providers get the funding they need to deliver the quality education all New Zealanders deserve.
Free education will be back on the agenda under Labour. We will fund schools so they don’t have to rely on parents to make up funding shortfalls. We will put the ‘free’ back into 20 hours’ free early childhood education, and we will introduce three years of fee-free post-school education for all New Zealanders.
Education spokesperson, Green Party
The Green Party is committed to public quality education and strongly opposes charter schools and other privatisation strategies. We support lifelong education from early childhood to tertiary as a human right for all people. We believe in quality education, not just participation targets. We support a broad curriculum, rather than National Standards in primary schools or an excessive focus on meeting government targets for NCEA in secondary schools.
Our schools policy, Schools at the Heart, will equip schools to act as hubs, functioning as the anchor for a range of health, education, welfare, cultural, and other opportunities. By bringing services to schools we ensure that every child is ready to learn, their family is included and is better able to support their learning, and we free up teachers to do what they do best – teach. These hubs would provide a school nurse, school lunches, adult education, free afterschool and holiday care, and a school hubs coordinator.
The law changes in education this year have been generally unhelpful to an equitable public system and are opening the door to private companies offering online schools, which have very poor results for students overseas. We support spending more on all public schools and to stop putting more funding into charters and private schools.
We recognise that the decile system needs a more nuanced funding model, but have concerns about the Government’s current proposal. Hypertargeting of only the most extreme students refuses to acknowledge the broader social conditions. Rather than ensuring the decent wages, and warm, safe, and secure houses that everyone needs, the Government is stigmatising a few individual parents and families.
The Greens support a review of ‘Tomorrow’s Schools’ and also of the support system for high learning needs, which fail many children with a range of diverse learning styles. I initiated a Select Committee Inquiry on learning needs such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism spectrum, which reported back recently. The Green Party believes the recommendations are progress but are too weak to fix a broken system. Without increased funding and mandatory professional development for teachers, inclusion of all children remains patchy and poorly understood.
Our vision for education is not a narrow curriculum but a broad one, which includes Te Reo and Te Tiriti education as a core subject for all, and a strong emphasis on environmental education, cultural responsiveness, creativity, participatory learning and diverse teaching techniques in public schools.
We want to see an overarching goal of equity, which has seen far greater success for learners overseas than the “teach to test” models that National is attempting to emulate.
Education spokesperson, NZ First
What we ask of our public education system continues to change and intensify. We believe it is time to have a nationwide discussion, similar to that which established our world leading curriculum, with the goal of developing a collaborative 30-year strategic plan for New Zealand education.
This would set an agreed direction for our nation’s education that is free from changes in governments and ministers. It would include the development of regional educational strategies and enable seamless transitions between and across sectors.
We believe that “success for Kiwi kids as Kiwi kids” needs to be identified, agreed and implemented. We, politicians, parents and community leaders, need to return to a high trust model partnering with the people in and around our classrooms, school grounds and campuses who share the responsibility for education.
Te Whāriki, The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa should be at the front and in the centre of our education system. These documents provide our teachers and learners with wide success criteria and key competencies that encourage and promote good citizenship. Current government policy has narrowed the definition of success to the detriment of learners.
National Standards have created a barrier to the full implementation of the curriculum and New Zealand First will remove them, re-establishing professional learning and development support for the quality delivery of The New Zealand Curriculum with monitoring of children’s progress based on curriculum levels. Discussion on refocusing data collection, analysis and reporting to ensure that students are funded to an appropriate level to meet their individual needs would be part of any strategic direction.
We are strongly opposed to charter or partnership schools and the slow creep toward the privatisation of our public education system; public funding for compulsory sector privately owned profit-making opportunities would end.
New Zealand First is committed to the collection of school entry and assessment data which will be used to create a funding structure that provides for every student, raising achievement at both ends of the learning continuum, ie. special needs and gifted and talented.
We recognise the importance of heritage culture to student achievement. We will restore funding for Te Kotahitanga as this programme has positive outcomes for Māori learners and for all learners, no matter what their heritage background. We see a greater role for Resource Teachers of Māori within mainstream classrooms throughout the compulsory sector.
New Zealand First will implement upfront investment in post-secondary education. This policy will remove the financial burden of student loans, particularly on our young people and replace this with a repayable skill debt to the country.
The UFI Tertiary policy will reduce both the human and financial waste currently created by inadequate workforce planning and under-resourced careers advice.
Our post-secondary study suite of policies, which includes a universal student allowance, will remove current lurching from skill shortage crisis to individual profession oversupply.
ACT Party Leader
New Zealand has a great school system, with talented educators. Yet too many students remain disengaged and not achieving their full potential.
We do many things right. We give teachers freedom, not prescriptive curricula scripting what to say. To have an education system that works for every child, we need to extend these freedoms – trusting teachers to teach, principals to run schools, and parents to choose the best school for their child.
This is why ACT introduced Partnership (or charter) Schools.
More choice for students, families and teachers William Butler Yeats said education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. The right approach for one student may not work for another. Some thrive in structured traditional environments, others prefer more freedom. Some are engaged by the arts, others by engineering.
The state should fund a range of schools, letting children, parents, and educators choose what lights their fire, not just what school is closest to them.
ACT thinks the best ideas come from people on the front lines, not detached Wellington bureaucrats. Partnership Schools empower educational innovators by allowing them to start their own fully funded schools – assuming they meet rigorous application standards, attract students, and deliver positive outcomes. They have more freedom in curriculum, hiring, and teaching practices, in exchange for higher accountability. They can be closed if they don’t meet targets.
It’s early days, but initial results are very positive. The eight currently operating span from military-ethos, to Steiner, to integrated learning, to Māori medium. Two more open this year.
ACT also trusts principals, boards of trustees and communities to decide how to spend their school’s budget. With local knowledge they are best placed to determine the mix of staff and other resources for their students. So ACT would give individual state school boards the option of transitioning to the Partnership Schools model.
Increase funding to independent schools
Currently private school funding is miniscule, and capped. This means that while schools profiting from wealthy families survive, more affordable private schools have been forced to close. Boosting funding can actually save taxpayer money by reducing costs in the state system. It would also be fairer to private school parents who currently pay twice for education (through fees and taxes).
Finally, ACT would not reduce the education budget – education is a core government-funded service and one of the most valuable investments we can make.
Dr Graham Stoop
Chief Executive, Education Council
As the agency primarily concerned with raising the status of the teaching profession we would like any future government to address this fundamental question: how do we properly recognise the positive influence our profession has in creating curious, confident and contributing citizens?
Here’s what we think.
The future government must have a future-focused education system. It needs to ask: what do teachers need to be equipped to meet the challenges of the modern world of teaching and learning? It needs to establish a strong education system that supports teachers to do their job not just now but in the medium and long term because our society, and the way we live, is changing at pace. Teachers must be allowed to keep up with this pace. Indeed, teachers need to be part of this change – showing leadership in change and being part of the agenda of change.
Future governments must then seek to strengthen leadership in our profession. A future government needs to recognise the leadership must be profession-led – horizontally and vertically. Our profession must build its own critical mass – a future government will facilitate and enable this process.
We expect the development of a connected, cohesive and adaptive leadership cohort. Communities of Learning are a good starting point. We want any future government to work closely and collaboratively with the respective agencies working in the profession. It’s critical they recognise the agency of organisations such as the Education Council because we are at the coalface – well placed to inform any future government. A future government needs to listen without prejudice to all players in the theatre of education.
We want to see our profession to be perceived as on a par with lawyers, engineers and doctors. We want to see this recognised not just through remuneration; we want future governments to see teaching as a profession not just a vocation.
We want a future government to help the public better understand the societal implications of a valued teaching profession. When we have a profession which is seen as a desirable first career choice, where there is strong competition for teacher training and where we know the best people are entering the profession then society will look at early childhood centres, primary and secondary schools in a different light. They will see our profession as one of the threads that make up a successful and productive society. They will see education not just as a right but as a privilege – and take advantage of that. And that’s good for all of us.
President, New Zealand School Trustees Association
Student wellbeing and achievement
This always has to be top of our list. Whatever else we talk about, it only matters because of the effect it will have on our students. We’re talking about the whole deal here – how will it help our kids learn the life skills they need to live happy and productive lives? Keep them physically and emotionally safe? Help students who have high and complex special needs? Prepare our academic students for tertiary study? Help students from other countries understand and thrive in New Zealand society? Does it gives every student a ‘fair go’? We haven’t got things right yet for special education and that’s an important part of the picture.
A shared education vision for all
New Zealand’s education system does not currently have a single, unifying vision statement. The National Education Goals (NEGs), The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC), Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (TMOA) and Te Whāriki (the ECE curriculum) all put forward aspirations or aspects of a vision and these have a high level of alignment, but each is slightly different. None of them apply across the board, and none of them include tertiary education. We believe it’s time for a meaningful conversation with New Zealanders about what we want from our education system, from the earliest days onwards. Clarity about that will let us take the politics out of education and concentrate on making it happen.
Partnerships with local communities
The partnership that our schools have with their local communities is a cornerstone of our present school system. The Education (Update) Amendment Bill has introduced proposals that could mean the end of school charters and the downgrading of the contract that boards of trustees have with their local communities in favour of a Ministry-driven system of national priorities. There’s been no real discussion of this change, or how it might work, so working through those questions will be an important piece of work for us in 2017.
The funding review will enter its next phase in 2017 – preferably minus the global funding option. Getting this right will make a huge difference to our ability to deliver effectively on student wellbeing and achievement. The funding review will be another important focus for 2017.
Communities of Learning
COLs are still too much of a mixed bag. We need to get this right. Soon.
President, Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA)
In keeping with the spirit of the season at the time of writing, here are PPTA’s 12 wishes for a happy, healthy and prospering education system where, like Lake Woebegone, all the teachers are good-looking and all the students are above average.
If the holiday season is too soon for our hard-working politicians, anytime during the 2017 election year would suffice.
- A world where evidence trumps ideology – every time.
- A nation where we can be proud of how we treat our most vulnerable citizens.
- Equal pay.
- A public service where there are enough pies, of the correct size, to go around.
- An education system, with a larger pie, cut into more equitable pieces.
- A minister of education whose first instinct when a good idea strikes in the middle of the night is to consult with the sector before pressing the ‘go’ button.
- A minister of education who, when the sector says no, is happy to pull the plan, not pull the pin.
- A manageable workload for every teacher.
- An end to illegal fixed term contracts for starting out teachers.
- A school system where teachers are supported to progress into middle and top management without suffering stress and burnout.
- A world where ordinary people can, without irony or distress, use the word ‘COOL’ again.
- A pūkeko in a ponga tree.
President, NZEI Te Riu Roa
The heart of our education system is its people. Without the right people – and enough of them – we simply can’t give our children the quality education they each need to fulfil their potential.
Over the past few years, the current Government has reviewed, overhauled and proposed all manner of changes in the education system. But in all of the reviews, updates and legislative changes, there is one thing that has been ruled out of scope for consideration time and again – increased funding. There has been an outright refusal to increase the size of the per-head pie, even though every part of the sector is struggling financially. If one group receives more, it’s because money has been taken from elsewhere – for example the targeted funding in Budget 2016 was introduced while overall school funding was frozen, or the threat of younger children with special needs getting earlier intervention at the expense of services for older children.
Meanwhile, there have been increases to ECE funding to cover increased participation but actual per-child funding has been frozen for the past six years and services are no longer funded to employ more than 80 per cent qualified teachers. Quality centres and services are struggling to stay afloat.
We are also very worried that schools will be forced to make awful trade-offs between cutting support staff hours and pay, and other running costs because of the funding freeze on operations grants this year.
Our priority for this election is people. That means more resourcing to enable ECE services to employ 100 per cent qualified teachers. It means more special education funding to employ sufficient early intervention teachers and speech-language therapists. It means funding school operations grants adequately so schools can employ the number of teacher aides and other support staff their students need, not just the number they can budget for. It means rejecting global (bulk) funding so schools don’t come under budgetary pressure to cut teacher positions and increase class sizes.
Eighty per cent of the cost of running our education system is people. We can’t try to save money by squeezing their pay, conditions and hours then wonder why it’s hard to attract people to the profession and keep them here. If we value our children’s education, we have to value educators.
Chief Executive, Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand
In recent years the Government has been focusing on participation targets in ECE. There is no doubt that participation by children in ECE is highly beneficial, particularly for our most vulnerable children.
But, there is also no doubt that the ECE service a child attends has to be high quality. It is now time that government policy shifts from participation to funding for high quality.
Right now, many in our sector are feeling let down. They believe the bare minimum is being invested in ECE. Funding on a per-child basis has not kept pace with inflation. We know that regarding funding rates alone, ECE services are more than five per cent worse off than they were in 2010. Combine that with national reducing funding for qualified staff in that year, many in the sector are struggling to provide the quality ECE they aspire to. Teachers and services are doing the best they can, but without appropriate resourcing it’s an uphill battle, which ultimately impacts the child.
So, what do we want to see in party policy in election year?
Restore early childhood funding to account for inflation since 2010.
Reinstate funding for 100 per cent qualified staff.
Reduce the under-2 teacher:child ratio to 1:4 (on the way to 1:3). Currently, New Zealand’s under-2 child ratio is 1:5 and is below international best practice. Babies need highly responsive caregiving; this requires better ratios, along with small group sizes.
Invest in funding for professional development for ECE leaders and teachers.
ECE services should be seen as an equitable, valued and integral Communities of Learning (CoL) partner and treated as such.
We’re talking about young children, whānau, and communities. If you want happy, productive and well-adjusted citizens later, the Government must invest in high-quality ECE now. Evidence has shown that investment in the early learning years pays dividends in the later learning years.
Our organisation, with more than 50 years’ experience, is committed to high-quality early childhood education for the long haul. We have proved this across decades and successive governments.
We want to see all political parties committing to high-quality early childhood education for the long haul. The future of our country, depends on it.
Chief Executive, Early Childhood Council Funding
The current funding system is cumbersome for ECE services to administer and not understood by most parents. The Early Childhood Council supports, therefore, the funding review the Government is undertaking, but with reservations. Yes, it’s a great idea to target new resource to ‘at risk’ children. The trick is to achieve this without cutting ECE funding for everyone else. And that, sadly, is not the current Government’s track record. It has, since 2011, cut $90,000 a year from the average ECE centre budget and redistributed the proceeds to create ECE access for low-income, Māori and Pasifika children. Whatever government emerges from Election 2017, it is essential that this ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ approach is not embedded in the structure of a new funding system. The quality of New Zealand’s early childhood education depends on it.
Given ongoing government funding cuts, many ECE centres have been forced to cut back on professional development for teachers. It is a major source of frustration for many running ECE services, that they lack the professional development resource to correct known deficiencies. ECE is supposedly to get some access, from next year (2017), to $75 million of professional development funding available currently to schools only. But centres will have to be in Communities of Learning for this to happen, and very few are. Something needs to be done about this.
The disparity between pay rates for kindergarten teachers and those working in ECE centres
Kindergartens have, since 2011, received three government funding increases to cover pay rises, while ECE centres have received nothing. There is, as a consequence, a substantial and growing disparity between pay rates for kindergarten teachers and those doing the same job in ECE centres. It is time, I think, for some fairness.
The Te Whāriki update
The Ministry of Education is moving currently to update the ECE curriculum, Te Whāriki. This is a good thing. The document is 20 years old, and it’s time for a review. It is possible the review will be done and dusted by the time a post-election government is operating. We hope, however, that this government ensures: learning outcomes are not assessed in a manner that directs teachers from what is best for children; there are improved links between the ECE and primary school curricula; the best of the current Te Whāriki is maintained, and there is plenty of documentation and professional development to ensure ECE services implement the new curriculum properly.
The Early Childhood Council’s most recent special education survey found that 59 per cent of centres say they waited, on average, more than three months for assistance with the assessment of children, with almost a quarter waiting more than six. When asked to identify the consequences of these delays, more than 80 per cent of centres indicated ‘delayed development of… children’.
The context in which we say the Government’s special education strategy has been ‘a crazy three-step dance’ is to:
- leave children with hopelessly inadequate special education support during their ECE years when the most important cognitive development is occurring, and
- wait until their development is delayed, and their problems exacerbated, then
- intervene, at school, to address the problems created by this neglect.
This, I think, is why the Government is seeking currently to transfer some special education funding from schools to ECE services. It is running, however, into a deluge of opposition. We hope it holds the line, or better still, finds extra money for ECE special education and maintains spending in schools. Whichever government the election delivers, it has to do a better job for our youngest of children with special learning needs.
Equivalent regulated quality
There are unacceptably large variations in regulated quality in ECE. While centres, for example, are required to have at least 50 per cent fully qualified teachers (with most having more than 80 per cent), home-based (so-called) ‘educators’ require no qualification whatsoever.
And while inexperienced teachers in ECE centres are supervised by senior teachers every minute of the day, unqualified home-based workers might be visited by a qualified supervisor once a month only.
The ECC opposes these and many other regulated inconsistencies, believes parents have a right to expect ‘equivalent regulated quality’ when choosing ECE services, and hopes a post-election government seeks to achieve this.
President, New Zealand Principals’ Federation (NZPF)
NZPF aspires to a high-quality public education system where schools are self-managing, well supported, informed and connected. We welcome involvement in all government education policy development from the earliest stages so that policy makers can benefit from our professional knowledge and experience and therefore create policy that is relevant and workable and translates to better learning outcomes for all students.
To maintain our position as a world-class education system requires a fair and equitable funding system that takes account of the socio-economic status of different school communities, the behavioural and special learning challenges facing schools and the growing number of students for whom English is a second language. We do not believe that the global funding model currently proposed will achieve these goals.
NZPF believes that the Government must take action to lift the status of the education profession and make teacher training an attractive option for the highest quality school leavers. Currently the population of teachers is aging with leadership a particular concern. Within the next five to 10 years it is expected that some 70 per cent of principals will be retiring. There is an urgent need to address leadership capacity in the profession and find incentives to encourage more middle leaders to consider taking up principal positions.
In the past decade there have been transformational changes to education policy and legislation and expectations have grown that schools are the agents of change to address social problems beyond the school gate. Schools and especially leaders are buckling under the strain of meeting these demands such that the stress levels are making the job a most unattractive option.
Further stresses come in the form of threats of privatisation to the education system including charter schools, an increase in PPPs as options for property management, increased access for private providers with the Online Schools initiative and various PLD options. These threats undermine our public school system and we do not want them to feature in our education landscape.
We want our Māori students to have the opportunity to succeed as Māori and we want to see the culture of our mainstream schools change to accommodate bicultural values. We have developed an initiative, the Māori Achievement Collaborations (MACs), which the Minister has agreed to fund for two years. We recommend that on the strength of the success of this programme, the funding be extending for a further two years.
President, Secondary Principals Association of New Zealand (SPANZ)
Of significance to New Zealand education both now and into the future is the Education (Update) Amendment Bill which amends the Education Act 1989.
This update of the Education Act has wide-ranging implications for us in education. Submissions closed in November 2016 and the Minister has promised that the select committee will meet in various parts of the country. It will be critical that educationalists put forward submissions.
Another wide-ranging implication for the education sector is the Education Funding System Review which started in 2016 and will continue in 2017. Every one of us wants to make sure we have an equitable education system that allows a student from any background to succeed. Educationalists must have their say to ensure that New Zealand’s standard of education is not compromised by the outcome.
Communities of Learning are being rolled out throughout the country. They have the very worthy goal of improving collaboration among schools. What is very important in the roll-out of Communities of Learning is that they are carefully researched by an independent researcher to ensure that the money being spent is actually making a difference to student achievement.
2017 will be an important year for the Education Council as it starts to roll out plans for how it will fulfil its mandate to provide leadership in education. In particular, how it will develop, support and grow leadership in the profession.
The latest 2015 TIMSS (Trends in Mathematics and Science Study) raises questions about our curriculum in these areas. An improvement in science was positive but our mathematics results are below other countries with whom we compare ourselves. To improve in these curriculum subjects we need to ensure the supply of high-quality mathematics and science graduates and that initial teacher education includes sufficient mathematics and science training. Continually reviewing our curriculum to ensure it meets the needs of 21st-century learners must be standard practice – this includes reviewing in the digital technology space.
Finally, and not least, I am very concerned about the planning that needs to go in to ensure we have a high-quality workforce both in the near future and for many years to come. Insufficient planning and monitoring of the workforce has been a keynote of the past and cannot be allowed to continue happening in the future.
The Minister and Ministry officials have the very best of intentions, but they are not working at a school level. It is very important that policymakers and the practitioners continue to closely connect to ensure that any policies and initiatives are founded in good common sense and are workable.