Education summit – closing speech

Nau mai. Haere mai.

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

Kia orana. Fakaalofa lahi atu. Talofa lava. Malo e lelei. Ni sa bula vinaka.   Taloha ni. Ni Hao.

Warm greetings and welcome to you all.

I’m excited to be here today and I’m delighted to see so many young people and people from a diverse range of backgrounds so enthusiastic about shaping the future of education in this country.

As Minister Hipkins has said, our Government is doing a major review of education, looking forward to the next 30 years, and we want to spark a national discussion about these issues.

Because we need your help. We don’t want to simply impose our ideas about what might be best. That’s a mistake of the past.

Today I will talk about some of my ideas and what my Government is doing now. But that’s not what this Summit is for.

This Summit is about you telling us your ideas. I hear the Education Summit in Christchurch last weekend went very well. And I trust you are enjoying this weekend in Auckland. I hope you have made it your own.

Because this weekend was all about you. We want kids and parents, family and whānau, as well as employers, academics, teachers and educators to tell us what your vision for education is.

We want to know what you would do if you were in charge and how you want education to look 30 years from now.

We want you to help us shape its future, so all our lives are improved.

Doing things differently

You may have noticed that this Government wants to do things differently. We are taking a more collaborative approach to education.

What that means is, rather than telling kids, students, parents, teachers and whanau what education should mean for you, and how it should work, we want you to tell us instead.

We want to get really good at listening and working with others to bring about transformative change. We want to help you to help us, to help you!

The goal is to bring people together, not just the education sector but also the wider community, so we all truly share a vision for the education system for the future. This will set the direction of our travel and our shared priorities across the whole system – from early learning, schooling and tertiary through to lifelong learning.

This Government sees education, along with health, and housing, as a foundation for a strong country, and also, a strong economy.

Education should bring out the best in everyone by providing the learning opportunities we need to discover and develop our unique potential, to engage fully in our society and to lead happy and fulfilling lives.

Preparing for the future now

Who knows what the future will bring? It’s said that 40 percent of today’s jobs will not exist in a few decades. What will replace them probably doesn’t even exist yet.

So how do we prepare for this unknown future?

We start with the known now. We start with building up our skills, so we can face anything the future might present. It seems likely we will need to have good skills in technology, but we will also need strong social and emotional skills, more resilience and greater adaptability, more innovative and creative ways of thinking and relating to the world.

We want to have an education system that provides strong foundations for today’s students to be well grounded for the future. We want an education system that provides experiences to learn from, not just theories. We want to have an education system that gives everyone tools they can use to be effective in whatever they choose to do.

Turning around the underfunding

This kind of change is likely to require some investment.

On Thursday my Government will present its first Budget. Without giving too much away, I can tell you that there will be significant new investment in Education.

Because Education is so important -  one of those core foundations for our country - we want to lift it up, rebuild it and ensure that education, from early childhood to tertiary, functions as well as it can.

Clearly education has been underfunded in the past.

And as is so often the case, kids with the most to gain from education – Māori and Pasifika, those with special needs - are often the first to miss out when money for education is tight.  Investment is now needed in both capital and operational expenditure to deliver the education services New Zealanders deserve.

The Budget announcements on Thursday will show how we plan to start.

As a Government we know that fixing long term problems requires fresh thinking and energy.

The budget will show that we have a plan to transform the economy and rebuild the foundations of health, education and housing to improve the living standards of all New Zealanders.

In a country like ours, everyone deserves a warm dry place to call home, access to high quality health services, and our kids should have a great education that sets them up for life.

These are the foundations of a strong country and a strong economy, and you’ll see this reflected in the Budget on Thursday.

As a Government we think it’s our job is to fix the immediate problems but we also know we need to look 30 years ahead, not just three.

The old kind of short term thinking limits our ability as a country to get ahead.

And that’s what this education kōrero is all about.

It is not about waiting 30 years for change. We haven’t got that long.

It’s about using your vision and your ideas, to enable change in the now and for the future.

As a Government we‘re focused on building a better future for our kids, not leaving all the hard challenges to them to fix when they’ve grown up.

But we also want children to have better lives now. I’ve often said I want New Zealand to be the best place in the world to be a child.

I know all New Zealanders share a very similar aspiration. We all want every kid, no matter where they come from, to have an amazing childhood and be able to realise their potential.

We are lucky as a country that we have the resources and the know how to ensure every child has that opportunity.

This Government has a plan to make it a reality, as we begin to rebuild the foundations of education.

One key area we will be looking to transform is learning support.

Learning Support

I’m going to take a punt and guess that almost everyone here knows of a child who goes to school or maybe even Kindy, who finds it harder to learn than others but who just needs a bit of extra support to get the most out of their education.

It might be that they’re slow to speak, or they’re grappling with behavioral issues, or maybe they have a disability - whatever the reason, they need a bit of additional support to be able learn all they’re capable of.

The way I see it, when these children miss out on the extra support they need to learn, they’re missing out on the education they deserve.

Over the past few years too many children have missed out.

I’ve heard this time and again from families and teachers, who’re doing their best to help children with extra needs, often while also trying to teach up to 25 odd other children at the same time.

Today, I want to tell you that we’ve heard you.

For the past decade, funding for learning support has fallen well below what’s needed to ensure enough kids get what they need.

This Government wants to turn that around.

Next week’s Budget contains a major funding boost for a significant package of learning support initiatives.

And today, along with Associate Education Minster Tracey Martin, I’m proud to announce one of the components of the package.

Budget 18 will provide the funding needed so that nearly 8000 more children in early childhood education will receive learning support over the next four years.

We know that the biggest influence on a child’s learning and educational outcomes happens before they go to school. 

A great early childhood education can have powerful positive impacts on a child’s learning which last their whole life.

In New Zealand we have a fantastic early childhood curriculum and amazing talented and dedicated teachers working in kindergartens and centres throughout the country.

Yet each day there are thousands of three and four year old children, who are prevented from benefiting to the full extent from that high quality education because they have additional learning needs.

This new funding – $21 million over four years – will make a huge difference in the lives of those 8000 children who’ll now get the help they deserve.

In early childhood education, the average wait for help from the early intervention service is about 74 days. And in the life of a little 3 or 4 year old child who’s hungry to learn, that’s 74 days too long.

Today’s announcement will halve the current waiting list for services, as well as help meet future demand. It’ll see an extra 1750 children get support over the next year, with and even more in each of the three years that follow.

This Government believes every child, regardless of their ability or disability, their culture, or their family background, deserves a great education that sets them up for life.

We see education as the foundation for a strong country, and as the foundation for a strong economy.

This is why you’ll see education, including more for learning support, features so strongly in this week’s budget.

We know all the issues can’t be solved within this Budget.       

One Budget cannot fix all the system, or counter all the effects of running down our social and public infrastructure over the years. We know we must also live within our means and we will.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson has said, the rebuild of our core public services is a six year job. This is just the beginning.

Transforming policy

Of course, improvements are not always to do with spending more money. There are other constraints holding us back. For instance, too much education policy is still stuck in a 20th century mind-set.

The focus on standardisation and measurement over the past few years only created too much red tape, and stifled creativity and innovation. It has not helped our young people to learn or to follow their passions.

My Government thinks we need to change to a more inclusive system, one designed to work for each individual child, so we can better follow the needs of the modern world.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has already announced an extensive work programme in the education portfolio over the next three years aimed at making those changes.

There will be an early learning strategic plan, a review of Tomorrow’s Schools, the development of an Education Workforce Strategy, a comprehensive reform of school property, a review of NCEA and a continuous focus on raising achievement for Māori and Pasifika learners.

There will also be more support for research, and a programme of change for vocational education, polytechnics and the institutes of technology.

We want to know what you think about all these ideas. They won’t be as good without your input. And we want to hear your own proposals for what will help kids and young people in this country.

Conclusion

Because we want to see every child given the best start in life. That’s why we are so committed to education, to relieving the pressure from families and lifting kids out of poverty. We don’t want parents to have to choose between giving their kids dinner or paying school hockey fees.

We want to ensure every kid can get the education they need to prepare them for the future; and that there are jobs available once they are qualified.

This country can be the best place in the world to grow up in. That is what this Government is committed to delivering.

But we can’t do this alone. We need your help to deliver better lives for all New Zealanders. This is a job we do together.

And if we work together we know we can make an enormous difference.

I am grateful that you are all here today, ready, willing and able. Already we are making a great start in hearing your ideas.

There has been a great response to the online survey already. I hear that more than 9000 New Zealanders have already taken part, which must make this the most popular education consultation in decades.

But we want even more people to join this conversation, so please encourage everyone you know to get online, fill out the survey which only takes five minutes. It’s important for Government to hear new voices and a wide range of views, including Māori and Pasifika, and those whose needs are not well served by the current education system.

We want to know what a successful student of the future may look like, what they will need to know and be able to do, what things need to be in place to make sure every learner is successful. I’m keen to hear the views of all New Zealanders – if you were the boss of education in New Zealand, what would you do first?

Believe me, deciding what to do first is not an easy task. So, I would be most grateful for any assistance you can offer.

I encourage you to come up with ideas and to have your say. Keep coming together like this.

Help us to design the best education system in the world.

Together, we’ve got this.

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.