Cohort entry to stay for children five years and over

  • Hon Chris Hipkins

Legislation for grouped (cohort) entry into schools for children aged five and over has been introduced in Parliament today, as signalled earlier this year, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said.

The Education Amendment Bill (No 2) ensures that schools will be allowed to adopt a cohort entry policy for five year old children. If a school adopts cohort entry, it will enrol groups of children, aged five and over, on the first day of term and at a mid-point during each term. The new provisions take effect from 1 January 2020. Schools can also continue with continuous entry as children turn five if they wish to do so.

“Raising the age for cohort entry to five, and allowing two entry points per term, reflects the views of the majority of those consulted by the Ministry of Education, on the changes, in February 2018,” Chris Hipkins said.

“The Government supports schools having the option of starting students in groups. But we also believe, and the education experts and most consulted agreed, that four is too young to be in school.

“Less than 50 schools took up the previous Government’s option to admit students in groups, from age four. The Bill allows these schools to continue current arrangements until 1 January 2020. From then, they can admit children in groups, aged five and over.

The new Bill also repeals the previous Government’s plans to introduce Communities of Online Learning (COOLs) from 31 December 2019.

“This Government sees high quality online learning for students as being an integral part of a high performing public education system. But the previous Government ploughed ahead with the legislation for online providers despite experts and education professionals raising a number of concerns, including significant concerns that kids with additional learning needs may be shuffled away from schools and into COOL even if it’s not the best option for them.

“We will consider future options for online learning with children and young people, as well as with parents, the sector, and with people with disabilities, as part of the Education Conversation.

Other parts of the Bill propose:

  • Making a physically and emotionally safe place for students a registration criteria for private schools
  • Allowing a Minister to issue a direction relating to specific Education Council functions

Two issues previously consulted on are not in the Bill - the planned changes to vetting requirements, and the College of Educational Leadership.

“These matters have been deferred pending the results of the review of Tomorrow’s Schools and the upcoming review of home based early learning services,” Chris Hipkins said.

Note to editor –

This Bill was previously going to be introduced as a part of a package of bills (Cognate bills) with the provision to restore the skills leadership role of industry training organisations (ITO) as part of it, but the Parliamentary Business Committee would not agree to this approach. The legislative mandate for ITOs to provide skills leadership for their industries will now be part of other upcoming legislation.