Chris Hipkins: All schools should be a great place to learn

Opinion 15/11/2019

By Chris Hipkins, Education Minister, Labour MP for Rimutaka.

I recently announced changes to our schooling system to make sure that all schools, parents and students gets the support they need, when they need it.

About 18 months ago the Government set up an independent taskforce to review the Tomorrow’s Schools system which was introduced in 1989.

Our starting point wasn’t that our schooling system was broken. It was about making sure that the system is still suitable as we approach the third decade of the 21 st century.

That means ensuring that students and their families feel adequately supported and that their voices are heard when it comes to decisions around school rules and policies.

I know that most parents have a great relationship with their child’s school. But when things go wrong, the system can be really hard to navigate, putting additional pressure on families.

That’s why we are setting up a new independent panel to resolve disputes for complaints on the serious end of the scale, for example, if parents and whānau feel that their child has been unfairly stood down or suspended.

The first port of call for any complaint or issue will continue to be the school’s principal or Board of Trustees. However, there are times when the issue just can’t be resolved at a school level.

At the moment, if parents want to appeal a school’s decision, they have to take it to court or the Ombudsman. This can be a lengthy, expensive and daunting process for many families and students.

Our Government is changing the law to establish independent panels over the next two to four years to resolve serious disputes in an inclusive, culturally appropriate and timely way.

The Teaching Council will still be responsible for complaints about individual teachers.

We are also changing the law so that schools are required to consult with their school community, including parents and students when they’re making school rules.

School rules can be extremely contentious and it’s important that those affected have their voices heard.

The changes we announced this week will strengthen the current compulsory schooling system so every young person has a great experience at their local school.

Chris Hipkins is Minister for Education and Labour MP for Rimutaka.