Smaller class sizes to improve teaching and learning outcomes

  • Government to reduce the size of classes in Years 4-8 when studies show maths, reading and writing results drop off
  • Moving from ratios of 1:29 to 1:28 initially, delivering 320 more teachers in primary and intermediate schools
  • Process set up to look into class sizes and what more can be done long term

The Government is reducing class sizes in the latter primary and intermediate school years to improve education outcomes for kids, Education Minister Jan Tinetti announced today. 

“Years 4 to 8 are critical for our kids, with research showing this is often where maths and literacy achievement can begin falling behind. That’s why we are targeting these years with more teaching resource to help turn this around,” Jan Tinetti said.

“I’m not happy with the downward trends we are seeing in maths, reading and writing. More teachers, targeted to where they are most needed is a practical way we can improve results for our kids. 

The 2019 National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement found in writing, 63 percent of students were achieving at the expected level in Year 4, dropping to only 35 percent achieving as expected by Year 8. For reading, the corresponding numbers were 63 percent at Year 4 dropping to 56 percent by Year 8.

The 2018 NMSSA mathematics and statistics study had similar results, with 81 percent of Year 4 achieving at the expected level, compared with 45 percent by Year 8.

“Reducing the number of students in each class will take some pressure off our hard working teachers and allow them to spend more one-on-one time with each student. It means they can focus on what they do best – teaching our young people the basics well so they can go on to succeed,” Jan Tinetti said.

“As a teacher and principal of 27 years, I know that every teacher wishes they could spend more time on each child in their class so we’re working to make that a reality.

“By the beginning of 2025, class ratios for years 4 to 8 will move from 1:29 to 1:28 – which will mean a lot in the classroom with an extra 320 full time teachers in primary and Intermediate schools around the country. Half of these teachers will be in classrooms from next year.

“Teaching is such a fantastic, fulfilling vocation and so we want to attract and retain good people in these roles. This is why, since taking office in 2017, Labour has increased the average teacher’s salary package by 18 percent, and put initiatives in place to increase the number of teachers in primary and intermediate by more than 3,000. 

“The Government has also been very focused on supporting teacher recruitment, including the investment last year of an additional $24 million to train and attract 1000 more teachers.

“Since September last year, 478 people have been offered teaching scholarships, of which 290 were career-change scholarships, we have supported 124 beginning and returning teachers into roles through the BeTTER Programme, and all qualified teachers are on the Accredited Employer Work Visa Green List, with over 758 visas already issued and 302 teachers already here.

There are relocation grants of up to $10,000 in place to encourage teachers to come to New Zealand, a bonding scheme to incentivise teachers to work in schools in the regions and hard-to-recruit places, and the Teacher Education Refresh Programme continues to be free to make it easier for teachers to return to teaching.

“The Government has been clear that we will prioritise bread and butter issues and focus on getting the basics right for Kiwis by investing properly in public services like our education system,” Jan Tinetti said.

“This is also an investment in the future of our economy. These are important years for kids to learn what they need to move through high school and into work or further training.”

Alongside the Government’s immediate commitment to reducing class sizes, a Ministerial Advisory Group will also be set up to look at class sizes over the longer term.

“I want to get a deeper understanding of the key areas where change is most needed. I want this work to happen fast so I’ve asked for the Terms of Reference to look at the challenges our teachers and students currently face in the classroom, what our school leadership and management need, what any further decrease to class sizes will cost and whether it is achievable.

“This group will be made up of experts from the education sector who understand how schools work, including school funding mechanisms and the staffing entitlement part of the school resourcing system.

“Today’s announcement shows teachers and parents that we’re taking action to address their concerns about our kids’ learning,” Jan Tinetti said.