Despite frustration from some corners of the education sector that their submissions did not appear to be taken into account in the latest version of the Education (Update) Amendment Bill, the proposed legislation passed its second reading yesterday in Parliament.
Education Minister Hekia Parata has described the changes to the Education Act as the biggest update to education in New Zealand in nearly 30 years.
“The Bill will also ensure there is stronger accountability throughout the education system; enhance collaboration between education providers; establish a future-focused legal framework for online learning; improve the way the Government provides careers services; and overall, modernises and gives flexibility to the legislation."
Of the changes to the first version of the Bill recommended by the Education and Science Select Committee, the significant one was prohibiting the use of seclusion and regulating the appropriate use of physical restraint in schools and early childhood education services.
Otherwise, the changes were perceived as minor and technical tweaks and opposition parties have expressed their disapproval of the Bill in its current form. The Labour Party says it “represents a missed opportunity to engage the whole community in meaningful educational reform”.
“The case has not been made for many of the changes that have been proposed, and the majority of feedback we heard from the 216 submissions received on the bill has been ignored.
“The Education (Update) Amendment Bill refines an education system that was well suited for the 20th century, and does little to bring the system into the 21st. The overwhelming focus continues to be on standardisation and accountability, rather than diversity and creativity.”
However, Minister Parata says the legislation update will bring more flexibility to New Zealand's education system.
“This Bill is about maintaining choice, both for parents and schools so that they have the flexibility to choose what works for their students and what will get great results for their kids.”
There is an option for parents and schools to enrol new entrants on the first day of the term closest to the child’s fifth birthday. The new Communities of Online Learning will provide an alternative to the traditional school environment.Many sector groups are anxious to see more detail emerge around the CoOLs.
“We know that a good education is a passport to the future and we are committed to modernising our education system to meet the challenges of the 21st century. This is a once in a generation opportunity to create a student-centred, future-proofed education system that is focussed on lifting the achievement of all young New Zealanders,” Ms Parata says.
Having passed second reading, the Bill is set down to be debated in the Committee of the Whole House stage tomorrow.