‘Biggest education changes in decades’ returns to Parliament

  • Hon Chris Hipkins

The Education and Training Bill, which modernises and strengthens the education system is expected to pass its third reading this week,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said today.

The Bill which brings all key legislation on early learning, schooling and tertiary education into a single statute, is a result of two years of intensive consultation with parents, students, teachers, education leaders and the wider sector about what education in New Zealand should look like in the 21st century,” Chris Hipkins said.

“Together, these changes will make a huge difference to the progress, achievement and wellbeing of every New Zealander, and underpins the Government’s plans to transform schooling.”

The changes in the Bill include:

  • supporting the right of all children to attend school fulltime
  • improving the quality and viability of early learning and home based education services
  • creating dispute resolution panels to help learners and whānau resolve serious disputes with their schools on issues such as enrolment and attendance, safety, learning support, racism, and bullying, where these cannot be resolved at school level
  • introducing a minimum code of conduct for Board members, and minimum appointment criteria for new principals

“Other changes are being made to the Bill as it stands. One of the main ones relates to the restrictions on the use of ‘physical restraint’,” Chris Hipkins said.

“The change follows concern from many submitters about some of the proposed changes, and in particular the change in terminology to ‘physical force’. The Government has worked collaboratively to address these concerns, with some input from the teaching profession and the disability community, and has agreed to return to ‘restraint’ as the most appropriate term to use in the Bill.

“Any restraint must be reasonable and proportionate. I expect that it’s only used to prevent physical harm or significant emotional distress to a student or another person and only where staff believe there is no other alternative.

“The changes also specify that staff members authorised to use physical restraint must be trained, and set out what must be in the rules and guidelines that the Ministry of Education develops, including a framework for prevention and de-escalation, to further support our educators.

“To allow our educators the time to prepare, many of the proposed changes do not take effect immediately. Supports are already in place to help with the changes, and more are coming. For example, over 600 new Learning Support Coordinators are in our schools and soon, 40 new Curriculum Leads will be helping deliver a high quality Health and Physical Education curriculum, including wellbeing and mental health.

“The Ministry is also assisting schools to give effect to Te Tiriti. Te Hurihanganui helps educators learn about what makes for Maori education success, and Te Ahu o Te reo Māori supports the more effective use of Māori in the classroom.

The Education and Training Bill will ensure more learners achieve in education, have access to a fairer education, are better supported in their education, and are able to stay engaged in their education.

The Bill’s rewrite is long overdue. Indeed one Education Act, parts of which are still in force, dates to 1964 - when the Beatles toured New Zealand.

“I want to thank all those who helped make this Bill possible from our many conversations on the future of education. I think the result is ground breaking education legislation that every New Zealander can be proud of,” Chris Hipkins said.