Nikki Kaye: National to focus on quality education

Opinion 15/11/2019

Nikki Kaye, National Party Education Spokesperson, Mp for Auckland Central.

A good education can transform lives. That’s why Education, alongside health and infrastructure, is one of National’s core investment priorities.

In a modern world we need to have a more personalised education system that delivers opportunities for everyone, whatever their background, from a young age and throughout their life.

While New Zealand can be proud of our education system overall, we know that there are some areas which require improvement. These include longstanding issues of inequity, not enough collaboration with a large number of schools especially for a small nation, and some challenges in attracting and retaining high quality teachers.

We have been concerned that the government has introduced numerous reviews and working groups and is yet to deliver on more than 50 promises in education. National’s Education Discussion Document outlines over 100 proposals, commitments or questions that we want your feedback on. 

In Early Childhood Education (ECE) we continue to focus on those critical first 1000 days for a child, on social investment and on the quality of education and care our children receive in those foundation years.

We’re proposing spot checks on ECE services to ensure they are meeting the required standards.

If they are breaking the rules, we’re proposing that these services be put on notice and parents informed. If problems aren’t fixed quickly, services will risk losing their license to operate.

Most ECE services do a great job and parents are confident when they leave their child. However there is evidence that some are not meeting the quality standards parents expect. We understand the value of ECE teachers and have proposed a package of support for ECE centres and teachers to ensure we address teacher shortages. We also believe through enhanced screening and better early intervention services more children will get the support they need faster.

National will also support teachers so they can spend more time teaching.

Too often our teachers are burdened with too much bureaucracy. Last year Simon Bridges announced a National Government would reduce class sizes in primary. We are committed to this policy and have now released draft teacher student ratios for feedback. When teachers have more time they are able to spend more time to support children with the specific needs that they have and more time to prepare resources.

We believe smaller class sizes will help reduce the workload teachers have. Smaller class sizes does mean more teachers. National is proposing a number of ways, including financial incentives, to attract more people to the profession, or to get people to return to teaching. We understand the need to have strong recruitment and retention policies to ensure we can deliver the teachers we need. 

We’re also considering changes to initial teacher training, which include strengthening practicum requirements, more rigorous selection for who can become a teacher, accredited schools involved in teacher training and more support for teachers who mentor beginning teachers.

National’s vision is to see children funded for their learning and health needs.

We know it takes a huge toll on families when they have inadequate support for a child that additional learning, behaviour and mental health needs. We’re looking at substantial reform to support children with complex needs to that all children have the opportunity to succeed in life. This would mean greater collaboration between our health and education system, and we’ve proposed a number of policies to address this including additional youth and child specialists and multi-disciplinary teams. We are focused on a social investment approach that will cater to the needs of every child.

National is also proposing some changes at the tertiary level. We want to ensure we make the changes needed so more New Zealanders can have access to lifelong learning. First year Fees Free has been an expensive failure. Not only are there fewer learners now than before, it has not seen a large increase in people who have traditionally not accessed Tertiary education. We want your feedback on some possible alternatives including an Education Saver scheme which could involve additional government support for all children and greater opportunities for people to train throughout their life and greater partnerships with businesses.

We also oppose the Government’s Reform of Vocational Education.

A National Government will return polytechnic assets and decision making back to regional polytechnics. We know the regions and local industry are best placed to teach their students.

This is our sixth discussion document and it shows National has the ideas and momentum, while Labour is failing to deliver on its promises for New Zealanders.

Our Education Discussion Document is part of the biggest policy development process undertaken by an Opposition ever. We’re doing the work now so we’re ready to hit the ground running in 2020.

Enter into the contest of ideas with your feedback here.

Nikki Kaye is the National Party Spokesperson for Education and Mp for Auckland Central.