Education laws to be strengthened

  • Hon Chris Hipkins

The Government will introduce a range of proposed amendments to the Education and Training Bill to help the international education sector’s recovery from COVID-19 and ensure the education system is better capable to respond to future emergencies.

“We are acutely aware of the challenges the international education sector is currently facing. Our export education sector is a big contributor to our economy and international brand. Many of the changes announced today will help to support the sector get back on its feet,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said.

New proposed changes to the Bill include not requiring payment of the Export Education Levy for the 2020 and 2021 years to remove some of the financial burden on education providers affected by the loss of international students. That levy will not apply to enrolments in 2020 and 2021 and levies already paid will be refunded.

“I also intend to temporarily allow schools to offer distance learning, including NCEA, to students based off-shore who have enrolled with the school during 2020, on a case-by-case basis,” Chris Hipkins said.

“Since the Bill was first introduced, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on our education sector and revealed some of the practical limitations of our current legislation. That’s why I have proposed some further changes to respond to the sector’s need to manage the disruptions and difficulties of the new COVID-19 environment.”

In 2019 the Government committed to work with the tertiary sector to develop a Code of Practice for the pastoral care for domestic tertiary students, which was to take effect from 1 January 2021.

“With education providers focused on the impact of COVID-19 we agree it’s no longer practicable to have the new Code fully developed and implemented by January 2021. This is an important piece of work, so we are proposing that the current Interim Code remains in place until 1 January 2022,” Chris Hipkins said.

“I want to thank the Education and Workforce Committee for its work on this Bill. The Committee has recommended a number of useful amendments, including introducing a definition of physical force and making sure that there is a clear process to appeal home school exemption decisions.”

Further amendments to the Bill would:

  • enable the Minister of Education to vary a tertiary funding determination, without a three-month stand-down period, in response to an epidemic or emergency
  • enable the Minister to establish Private Training Establishment sub-categories
  • delay the transfer of responsibility for school enrolment zones from school boards of trustees to the Ministry of Education to 1 January 2021
  • allow for the use of grand parenting provisions in relation to enrolment schemes at the discretion of the Secretary for Education to allow siblings to attend the same school where a new or amended home zone has been put in place
  • provide a new set of powers for the Secretary when a state of emergency, epidemic notice, or national transition period for recovery is in place
  • allows the Secretary to direct a school to close when a state of emergency or an epidemic notice is in place, or to reopen a school where the closure is no longer justified.

Further information on these amendments is available in the accompanying Cabinet Paper.

The proposed amendments will be tabled as Supplementary Order Papers when Parliament next considers the Education and Training Bill during the Committee of the Whole stage,” Chris Hipkins said.