Supporting all schools to succeed

  • Hon Chris Hipkins
  • More frontline support for schools through a new education agency, as part of a redesigned Ministry of Education
  • More support for principals and school boards including through a new centre of leadership and local leadership advisor roles
  • New independent disputes panels for parents and students
  • Management of school property simplified and/or transferred to the Ministry to free up boards’ time
  • Enrolment zones to be managed locally, not by each school  

The Government’s reform of the Tomorrow’s Schools system will put more frontline support closer to schools to give every child the best chance to succeed, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced today.

The Government released its report today following extensive consultation, which culminated in recommendations received from an Independent Taskforce in July.

“The 1989 Tomorrow’s Schools reform introduced one of world’s most devolved schooling systems where each school operates largely in isolation of each other,” Chris Hipkins said.

“It empowered local communities and modernised an overly bureaucratic system but also led over time to uneven outcomes between schools.

“That has meant young people in some areas have missed out, and it’s been particularly challenging for Māori, Pacific peoples, and people with disabilities and additional learning needs. This is reflected in a 2018 Unicef report ranking New Zealand 33rd out of 38 developed countries for overall educational equality.”

“The changes we are setting out today acknowledge that the way schools are led and supported continues to work well in many cases,” Chris Hipkins said

“This is not about more centralised decision-making or smothering schools that already perform well. It’s about making pragmatic and workable improvements that we believe can gain broad support. 

“The support and services some schools rely on – including from each other – has been variable, and the ability to intervene early on when a school is struggling has been limited.

“These changes will influence how the Government’s annual $9.5 billion schooling budget is spent so that all schools will be better-placed to succeed, with better targeted and earlier support provided at many different levels, stronger leadership support structures, more collaboration between schools and a reset of the relationship between schools and the Ministry.

“This builds on the Government’s plan to ensure every young person has the best possible start in life.”

Key points

Boards of trustees will:

  • Have more support and guidance
  • Have the responsibility for property issues simplified or transferred to the Ministry
  • Have any training and support needs identified for improvement      
  • Have four equal objectives: the physical and emotional safety of students, inclusiveness, giving practical effect to the Treaty – through specific measures, and achieving the highest educational standard
  • Follow a code of conduct (mandatory training for boards will also be considered), and  
  • Enrolment zone decisions will be made locally or regionally, not by each school. 

The Education Service Agency (ESA) will:

  • Have a strong local presence, with new decision-making and funding powers
  • Have a strong and flexible support culture; will include new services and a focus on reducing bureaucracy and compliance
  • Be part of a redesigned Ministry of Education, which will provide central expertise and services, including new curriculum and leadership services. 

Principals will:

  • Have access to a new leadership centre and support from new local leadership advisors
  • Have minimum principal eligibility requirements
  • Be given stronger incentives to lead underperforming or isolated schools.

Parents and learners will:

  • Know their local school will have stronger structural and education support
  • Have access to free local complaints and dispute resolution panels for serious disputes with a school
  • Have their wellbeing, identity, culture, and language recognised as a priority alongside achievement,
  • Have a stronger voice in how school rules are set.

“This reset of the way schools are led and supported is a major building block in this Government’s 30-year vision for education,” Chris Hipkins said.

“It addresses the limiting factors, inconsistencies and inefficiencies in administration, governance and management that have built up over time, drives excellence and sets the compulsory schooling system up for the next 30 years.           

“I want to thank the Independent Taskforce for their detailed, well-considered and comprehensive review.

“In making the decisions we have, the Government has listened to thousands of voices across the length and breadth of New Zealand.

“The changes announced today are carefully considered to combine the strengths that come from empowered local communities with a stronger, better-connected and less-bureaucratic overall system that can make every school in New Zealand a great school to go to,” Chris Hipkins said.

More information can be found here -


Why is the Government reforming Tomorrow’s Schools?

The Government has a significant opportunity to strengthen the education system for all learners/ākonga and their whānau.

It’s been 30 years since the landmark Tommorow’s Schools reforms of 1989. The world has changed significantly in the last three decades and it is prudent to make sure our education system is fit for purpose.

The system needs to be future-focussed and adapt to the changing world and changing knowledge about teaching and learning, so that what New Zealanders learn is relevant and useful for their lives today and throughout their lives.

We know that our education system is underserving some learners/ākonga and that there are persistent inequities for Māori and Pacific, as well as for students with disabilities and learning support needs, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Government wanted to look at the system as a whole and consider how to strike the right balance between what needs to be provided from the centre, what is best left to local schools and what needs to be better supported and enabled at the regional and local level to ensure strong connections with learners/ākonga, whānau and communities.

The Reform of Tomorrow’s Schools is part of the Government’s wider Education Work Programme, which covers the whole education system from early learning through to schooling, tertiary and beyond. This wider work programme looks to address five main objectives across our education system. These are:

  • Learners at the centre of education
  • Barrier-free access
  • Quality teaching and leadership
  • Future of learning and work
  • World class inclusive public education.

What are the main changes the Government is proposing?

While the scope of the Tomorrow’s Schools review was focussed on the governance, management, and administration of compulsory schooling, it is critical that the Government’s response to the review takes the opportunity to strengthen the whole system from end-to-end.

This involves a reset to a more deliberately networked and supported system that is more responsive to the needs of learners/ākonga and their whānau.

The key features of the Government’s reforms are:

  • Introducing more responsive, accessible and integrated local support to schools (as well as early learning services) through the establishment of an Education Service Agency
  • Stronger arrangements to underpin school leadership
  • A better balance between local and national responsibilities for the network of schooling property and provision.

We are also progressing a significant number of initiatives inspired by the Taskforce as part of our Education Work Programme.

Why isn’t the Government implementing the structural changes proposed by the Taskforce?

In its initial and final reports the Taskforce made recommendations about the structure of education agencies which would have had implications for the roles and responsibilities of boards of trustees and principals.

The Government has carefully considered these as well as the feedback the Taskforce received during its consultation.

We believe that the scale of structural change proposed by the Taskforce would be too disruptive and a distraction from dealing with the issues facing our learners, teachers and school leaders.

Instead, we think that the intent of the Taskforce’s recommendations can be achieved through changes to our existing structures – including the establishment of an Education Service Agency (ESA) within the Ministry of Education.

What will the Education Service Agency do?

The primary purpose of the ESA will be to deliver more responsive, accessible and integrated local support by delivering functions relevant to the needs of teachers, leaders, students, whānau and their wider communities. 

The ESA will be based within the Ministry of Education.

The ESA will focus on significant service improvements for learners/ākonga and their whānau, and for educators and others across the system. It will develop a programme of service-level transformation that draws on the policy decisions from our Education Work Programme and brings these together with opportunities to significantly improve the underpinning systems and networks that educators currently use to access government services and support.

Further work is required to confirm the specific structure of the ESA, the functions that it will deliver and how their delivery will be managed. The Ministry of Education is responsible for determining the final form and function of the ESA and will report back to the Minister with more detailed proposals.

What do the changes mean for principals?

The Government regards the role of the principal as demanding, complex and critical to the success of a school. We want to ensure our school leaders are better supported and developed and the status of the role is elevated.

To achieve this we will:

  • Establish Leadership Centre to build the status and capability of leaders and principals
  • Establish Leadership Advisor roles to provide greater localised support for principals
  • Establish minimum eligibility criteria for the appointment to school principal roles
  • Broaden incentives so we can attract highly capable principals to schools with more challenging needs.

What do the changes mean for boards of trustees?

The Government respects the vital role that boards of trustees play in our schooling system. Boards will retain their legal status and remain the employer of principals (and all school staff).

However we think there are a number of improvements that can be made to help support and guide boards.

To achieve this we will:

  • Identify opportunities to remove the burden on schools and boards for infrastructure management and maintenance while ensuring schools and communities continue to have significant input into the design of their physical spaces
  • Transfer the responsibility for developing and consulting on enrolment schemes from boards of trustees to the ESA 
  • Consider other aspects of how enrolment schemes operate including whether the existing balloting criteria for out-of-zone enrolment places set out in the Education Act 1989 continues to be fit for purpose
  • Set out new primary objectives for boards in their governance of a school including that boards give effect to Te Tiriti including:
    • working to ensure its plans, policies and local curriculum reflect local tikanga, mātauranga Māori and te ao Māori
    • taking all reasonable steps to provide instruction in tikanga Māori and te reo Māori
    • achieving equitable outcomes for Māori students.
  • Develop a mandatory code of conduct setting out commonly held expectations for board members
  • Assess the current training available to boards and investigate whether training should be compulsory
  • Assess how to support greater engagement by Maori in school governance
  • New independent disputes panel for parents and students.

What do the changes mean for learners / parents and whānau of learners?

The government has clear priorities in education, the first among these is to put learners at the centre. All of the reforms are designed to improve the schooling system for learners. Our system needs much better mechanisms for responding to children, young people’s, family, and whānau voices, insights, and concerns.

To help achieve this we will:

  • Require boards to consult with students, staff and the school community  when making new school rules
  • Establish complaints and disputes resolution panels that can be easily accessed by students and their  whānau
  • Ask the Children’s Commissioner to review requirements for student participation in school governance and provide recommendation on what improvements could be made.

What do the changes mean to the education workforce?

The proposed changes will deliberately network, support and invest in the education workforce, and empower educators to work together to make a difference for learners/ākonga and their whānau.

This includes the development of a comprehensive and effective Education Workforce Strategy.

We will establish a nationally based Curriculum Centre to provide curriculum leadership and expertise. The Curriculum Centre will be future-focussed, supporting educators to adapt to the changing world and changing knowledge about teaching and learning.

Government wants to ensure that teachers and leaders have access to high quality advice and resources that enable them to be more effective – to create a much clearer and larger critical mass of expertise that leads, develops and supports curriculum development and delivery.

Why is the Government moving the responsibility of enrolment schemes to the Education Service Agency?

Under current legislation, if a school is (or is likely to be) overcrowded, its board of trustees must develop and consult on an enrolment scheme for the school. There are several issues with this including the significant workload it puts on a group of people who are almost all volunteers, as well as the fact that schools can manipulate the zone based on areas they may wish to take students from; for example, including high socio-economic neighbourhoods while excluding closer, yet more disadvantaged, neighbourhoods.

In light of these issues, the Government proposes the ESA would assume, at a regional level, responsibility for developing a new enrolment scheme, or modifying an existing scheme, and consulting with relevant stakeholders. Being undertaken at a regional level will mean the best interests of learners/ākonga, their whānau, and the regional schooling network is taken into account.

When will change take place?

The changes will require significant time and effort that will need to be sustained over the course of several years.

We have prioritised the changes that will make the most significant difference to the outcomes of learners/ākonga and work to address current disparities.

The Ministry of Education is responsible for determining the form and function of the ESA.

We will progress a number of initial changes through the upcoming Education and Training Bill which is due to be introduced before the end of the year. 

How much will the reset cost?

Further work, including detailed policy design, is required to fully understand the design, implementation, resourcing and potential legislative requirements.

The Government will need to consider funding implications over the next three to four Budgets.