New Zealand Principals’ Federation Conference 2022

Tena kotou katoa,

It’s a pleasure to be here with you today.  Thank you for inviting myself and my esteemed colleague Minister Sio.

I do want to firstly extend the apologies of the Minister of Education Hon Chris Hipkins

We have lots to catch up on!

The past two and a half years have been challenging for all of us, and especially for you as our educators. You have done amazing work during the COVID pandemic to support our children’s learning, whether in class or at home.

I know we are not out of the pandemic yet. But I am sure that like me, you hope that we are through the worst of it. Thank you for all your work on behalf of our tamariki.

In 2018, with the Korero Matauranga The Education Conversation, this Government began an education journey with New Zealanders. Our goal was to use the feedback we received to transform our education system for the benefit of all our children and young people, as well as for their parents, families and whānau.

During the Korero Mātauranga, thousands of New Zealanders, including many of our educators, told us what they wanted the future of education in Aotearoa to look like.

Parents and learners, for example, told us they wanted an education system that valued the identity, language and culture of every child, and one that recognised the connections between learner wellbeing, inclusion, equity, and achievement. And, during the Korero, our educators also told us that they wanted a Ministry of Education that was less bureaucratic and more responsive to their needs and to the needs of local students and their communities.

Today, I want to talk to you about our latest moves in the transformation of our education system as set out in Budget 2022, as well address a few other issues that I know you will be interested in.

Budget 2022

The government is continuing to lift its investment in education.

Budget 2022 provides additional operating investment of $1.66 billion and capital investment of $815 million over four years.

Equity Index

One of the most positive announcements in the education budget this year in my opinion, was the fifty-percent increase in annual Equity funding and the long overdue replacement of the school decile system. 

You have all been calling for this change for some time. Now, it is happening.

From January 2023 we’ll be using the Equity Index to determine a school’s level of equity funding.

The EQI estimates - through a more sophisticated mechanism than deciles - the extent to which children and young people grow up in socio-economic, and other, circumstances, that we know will impact their likelihood of achieving in education.

The shift to the EQI will change the amount of equity funding some schools receive.

Overall equity funding will increase. Many schools will, as a result, receive more equity funding to address equity issues within their schooling population. And, for schools who receive less, we’ll provide transition funding to allow them to plan and adapt.

For the 2023 year no school or kura will receive less operational funding due to the EQI and Isolation Index changes. From 2024, any reduction in funding will be capped at 5% per annum of a school or kura’s 2022 operational grant, to ensure funding is phased out over time.

It is important to note, as you all know, that neither Deciles nor the EQI are measures of school quality. Rather, they are ways for us to understand the relationship between socio-economic circumstances and student achievement.

The Ministry has set up a Reference Group which includes broad sector representation to advise and make sure that next year’s implementation is straight forward for schools and kura. 

They are currently finalising the EQI output for 2023 and will be releasing more information about the EQI including your school’s number in July. 

Progressing our response to Tomorrow’s Schools

As you know, the Government’s Tomorrow’s Schools reforms (also known as Supporting All Schools to Succeed) are well underway. 

Our focus to date has been on shifting the way our education system works to a much more deliberately networked and supported system that is more responsive to the needs of educators, ākonga and their whanau, through the establishment of Te Mahau – the Ministry’s strengthened regional presence.

We are proud to have already made substantial progress over the past two years to implement Tomorrow’s Schools reforms. These include the establishment of Te Mahau, introducing the Equity Index, to which I referred earlier, the refresh of the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa Curriculum and introduction of Aotearoa New Zealand Histories, the establishment of the curriculum centre and supporting advisors, to name just a few.

But, as I am sure you will understand, COVID has thrown a spanner in the works here as regards progress on some matters. And both we and Iona and her team have been conscious of the need to not over-burden you with changes. 

I am delighted though to say that one of the key elements of the reforms has been funded through Budget 2022.

As you know, the Tomorrow’s Schools Taskforce found that school leaders need more localised support to build their leadership capability, as well as to address school leaders' management issues which get in the way of leading teaching and learning. There is also the need for more high-calibre, leadership-based expertise that is available to all school and kura leaders on an equitable basis.

Leadership Advisors and Regional Response Fund

Leadership advisors will provide additional management and leadership advice to support and grow principal capability.

The leadership advisor roles will be established across the Te Mahau regions from early 2023. These roles will provide expertise and support to school leaders in your management and leadership work. Leadership advisors will be available to provide coaching and mentoring, help with building leader networks to strengthen connectivity and enable you to share skills, knowledge and promising practice. This is intended to free up your time to focus on leading teaching and learning, which research shows is the most important factor for leaders to focus on to improve ākonga outcomes.

The Budget 2022 funding for leadership advisors ($22 million) builds on funding provided in Budget 2021 ($23.4m over four years) for frontline advisory positions in our regional offices. In combination, this funding is enough for 45 advisory positions, adding to the 40 curriculum lead positions funded through the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund in 2020.

This funding will establish new leadership advisor roles based in the regions (Te Tai Rare, Te Tai Whenua and Te Tai Runga), to support school leaders. The nature of these frontline advisory roles will be determined in collaboration with the sector and there will be some flexibility in how they operate across the different regions and in different settings, for example Kaupapa Māori.

Alongside this initiative, we have also introduced a regional response fund which will enable frontline staff to provide timely and responsive services and support for ākonga and whanau. The regional response fund will allocate $40 million ($10 million per year across four years) in operational funding across the three Ministry regions (Te Tai Raro, Te Tai Whenua, and Te Tai Runga) from the start of the next fiscal year on 1 July 2022. 

As I discussed earlier, the Fund will provide frontline Ministry staff with the resources they will require to deliver responsive support and services. Some of it will be used to ensure pathways to learning are there for disengaged youth. It can be used to support whānau-led responses to break the cycle of disengagement or brokering services with other agencies to ensure students have the level of support they need to stay in school.

Curriculum changes

2023 will also be a momentous year for the New Zealand curriculum. This is because, from next year, all ākonga will start to experience learning Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories as part of their classroom programmes.

We know that it’s a big ask to implement a new curriculum in the current environment, and everyone here is at a different stage of their implementation journey.

But like me, I am sure you all agree that this change has been a long time coming.

In my view, no nation can properly consider its future without an understanding of its past and where it has come from. For too long, too many New Zealanders have known too little about our origins and the different histories, as experienced by our different peoples, that have led us to where we are today.

The Aotearoa New Zealand History curriculum is an attempt to give all our ākonga the chance to learn about our past in order help them to develop a shared understanding of present and our future. It is also an exciting opportunity to engage and re-engage students in learning.

Throughout terms 2 and 3, we are hosting webinars to support leaders, teachers and others with the new curriculum content. And our curriculum leads will continue to work with schools and teachers to ensure they feel supported to implement the new content from 2023.

In 2022, we will also see the start of the refresh of the overall framework of the NZ Curriculum. We want to ensure that every child experiences success in their learning, and that their progress and achievement across the full educational pathway from Years 1-13, is responded to and celebrated. The refresh will also honour our obligations to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and ensure that the curriculum is inclusive.

The Refresh will be shaped around the learner – their voice, needs, and aspirations. It will enable the curriculum to have a stronger focus on wellbeing, identity, language, and culture. The refreshed national curriculum will provide a greater sense of what progress looks like, By the end of 2025, schools will be using the fully refreshed NZC.

The refreshed curriculum will provide teachers with guidance on what ākonga should ‘Understand, Know, Do’ as they progress through their schooling. Curriculum levels will be replaced by phases of learning in a progression framework and will give clarity on what ākonga should learn at each phase of the learning journey. Achievement objectives will be replaced by a smaller number of progress statements which will make sure ākonga are reaching the milestones they need to, and guide what to teach across the years.

This is an ambitious change programme.

By the end of 2025, all schools will be using a fully refreshed New Zealand Curriculum.

Teachers will be supported throughout the refresh with a new Online Curriculum Hub, and an improved Kauwhata Reo for Māori medium. The new hub will support boards, teachers and kaiako make sense of the new curriculum and progress models, what learning matters, and how to teach it. It will combine resources from early childhood to senior levels, spanning the entire national curriculum.                                                               

Newly designed Records of Learning will also be in place to help learners, parents, whānau, teachers and boards of trustees to understand each learner’s progress, strengths, and needs. They will recognise students’ unique identities, reflect their aspirations, and celebrate their achievements. Records of Learning will be collaboratively generated by ākonga, whānau and teachers. The development of the Record of Learning has been aligned to the refresh, with the first release planned for 2024. 

With the redesign of Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, we aim to develop a more authentically indigenous curriculum that is clear and easy to use and embedded in te reo Māori. Here, we want to recognise a broader definition of success and equip all learners with the essential knowledge, skills, and values to operate confidently in te ao Māori and the wider world. Kura and schools will be using the fully redesigned Te Marautanga o Aotearoa by the 2025. 

The Government has also announced two new strategies to improve performance, for all our children and young people, in maths, literacy, communication, te reo matatini and pāngarau, over the next five years.

These build on the curriculum refresh, and our work on records of learning, to ensure that learners receive maths and literacy support from their teachers catered to their individual needs, and so parents know how their child is going and what support their child needs. We also want to help parents and caregivers to be better able to support their children’s learning progress in these core subjects.

The strategies will also provide more support for teachers to develop their confidence and teaching skills in maths and literacy. Part of this support will see a stronger focus on these subjects in Initial teacher education and more professional support for teachers to help make maths and literacy easier and more enjoyable for more children and young people.

Attendance

I want now to talk about attendance.

You all know that, despite our best efforts, regular attendance at school by students continues to decline gradually, as it has been doing since 2015, and is now sitting at around 60 percent. You also all know that attendance has been exacerbated by the disruptions of COVID-19.

This Government is committed to reversing this decades long decline.

Yesterday, I announced the Government’s Attendance and Engagement Strategy.

The Strategy sets clear expectations and targets for us all. That’s because all of us – parents, teachers, Ministers, government agencies, students, and communities – have an important role to play in lifting educational attendance and engagement.

The strategy looks at how  we can work better with you to turn around that longer trend of a drop in the numbers that attend regularly - that is above 90 percent of class-time - and also the concerning increase in chronic absences, which is only attending 70 percent of school or less.

The Strategy sets a target to have 70 percent of kids attending regularly by 2024. It will remind parents and whānau that they are responsible for getting their children to attend and participate and support schools and kura to be places where our tamariki and ākonga feel they are safe and belong.

Having schools and kura being the places that our kids want to attend is crucial if we are to boost attendance and engagement. That’s because, as you know, it’s not enough just to get kids to school. Rather, it’s even more important to ensure they want to stay.

The strategy will support local solutions by local schools and kura, working with regional Ministry of Education teams, and communities, to raise attendance and engagement. As part of it, we will also be requesting school and kura feedback on their regular notifications to parents and caregivers of unexplained absences, with a reminder to them that they have a legal obligation to ensure that their children are in learning.

Support for this strategy will come from the $88 million package in Budget 2022 designed to invest in keeping Kiwi kids in class and learning.

This is a suite of targeted measures to ensure there is support in place for students and communities where the needs are greatest. About $40 million of that package is for the regional response fund. Of the rest:

  • $18.9million is to refresh and enhance the delivery of the Positive Behaviour for Learning School-Wide Programme. Some of this funding will deliver 14 new School-Wide practitioners to enable more schools to  enter the programme.
  • provide intensive supports for Māori and Pacific learners at risk of disengaging, and
  • $6 million to allow the Attendance Service to increase its support to schools

We also announced $15.5 million to scale up the Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu support for at-risk young people to re-engage in school, in line with its proven ‘Big Picture’ approach supporting around 2,500 at-risk students each year.

The Regional Response Fund will have a strong initial focus on ensuring students are going to school and are engaged in their learning. It will be used for example, to ensure that pathways are there for disengaged youth and to support whānua-led responses to break the cycle of disengagement. Or, for brokering services with other agencies to ensure students have the support needed to stay in school.

Reversing a decades long decline in attendance will take time, and there are any reasons why students disengage from their learning. Our investment in these initiatives, as well as our increased support for student wellbeing, are all designed to  make schools places where our students want to be, where they get the support they need, and where they fell welcome and included for themselves and who they are.

Student well-being

Re-engaging ākonga with learning is going to be about not only bringing them back to the school community, but also acknowledging the extent of the disruption in their lives over the past few years.

For some children there’s been real trauma, and we know the number who are presenting at school with behavioural problems has increased.

Counselling support is in now in place for around 25,000 of our most vulnerable learners through the Counsellors in Schools programme.

It delivers support to 164 primary, intermediate, area and small secondary schools throughout Aotearoa through an investment of $44 million, over four years, as part of a $200 million package to improve wellbeing for learners in the wake of COVID-19.

It will be up to schools, working with their whānau, communities, wellbeing staff, and the counselling provider, to decide on which counselling supports and delivery models are best suited for your students.

In addition, Budget 2022 provided $90 million to expand Mana Ake. The Mana Ake already provides wellbeing and positive mental health support to around 10,500 Year 1 to 8 learners in Canterbury and Kaikoura. Budget 2022 will expand the programme into the Northland, Counties Manukau, Bay of Plenty, Lakes, and West Coast District Health Board (DHB) regions. Around 195,000 primary and intermediate aged children will benefit from this expansion and continuation.

Another student wellbeing initiative this Government is pleased to support is the period products in schools programme.

This programme aims to reduce barriers to access and improve school attendance, sports involvement, improve child and youth wellbeing, reduce financial strain on families and whānau experiencing material hardship, and promote positive gender norms and reduce stigmatisation of menstruation.

Paeroa College was one of the trial schools for the programme. Since 2019, attendance of girls has gone up by 10 per cent: attendance of boys has gone up two per cent. The principal Amy Hacker has said she is sure that this increase is attributable to free period products. This is a statistically significant benefit to young women.

Currently 2,023 schools, kura, activity centres and alternative education providers have opted into the initiative, representing 94 percent of estimated menstruating students. The initiative is reaching around 350,000 female students. Over half a million packs of product have been ordered and supplied to schools and kura since June 2021. 

Having our schools as more inclusive places to be for all our students is an important part of rebuilding attendance and engagement in learning.

For example, we’ve all been aware for some time that we need to take a close look at the supports in place for those learners with the highest levels of learning support need.

This is one of the key priorities of the Learning Support Action Plan 2019-25, so it’s great to see the Highest Needs Review is now well underway.

We need to ensure our tamariki and ākonga receive the learning supports they need, when they need it, and for as long as they need it.

The Ministry is currently reviewing submissions and feedback gathered during our recent public engagement that closed at the end of March. 

We connected widely with parent and whānau Māori groups, Pacific communities, disabled persons, the education sector including resource teachers and specialists, the health, disability and social sectors, and other government agencies to unpack identified areas of concern for those children and young people within the Scope of the Review.

We also spoke with around 80 stakeholders last year, to co-design the Review’s Scope and Terms of Reference, and ensure that the key issues and concerns were captured.

The information gathering phases of the Review have been completed and analysis of stakeholder voice is in process. The Ministry is working with other agencies to develop options and opportunities for change. I’m expecting recommendations to consider in October.

The Ministry has also recently completed consultation on draft updated rules and guidelines on the use of physical restraint in schools. I know this is an issue of concern to your members and I thank you for your support throughout the review process as we all try to get this complex issue right for you, and for our learners and their whanau.

The Ministry is now analysing everybody’s feedback and will be working with the Physical Restraint Advisory Group to consider what changes need to be made, before finalising and publishing them.

The Ministry has also reprioritised more than $6 million through Budget 2022 to create training and resources for school staff, to help them meet their obligations under the new rules and guidelines, and use effective behaviour management strategies to minimise, and where possible, eliminate the use of physical restraint.

This Government wants all our schools to be safe places for all our students whatever their gender, race, nationality, beliefs, or sexual orientation. 

To that end, in April of this year, I launched several new resources to support wellbeing and the teaching and learning of relationships and sexuality education (RSE) in school and kura.

These resources include information about consent, digital safety, and healthy relationships. They are clear, easy to use, bicultural and inclusive. There are resources to provide teachers with practical skills and evidence-based information to talk about pornography. The suite also includes resources. specifically designed for Māori-medium settings and for English-medium settings.

We all know that students who are happy and confident learn better. Our various welling initiatives, such as those above, and others, such as our Food in Schools programme, are all designed to foster a sense of inclusion and trust, to break down the barriers to learning, to encourage school attendance, and to develop an appreciation of difference and diversity in our schools and our communities.

Schools Investment Project

Turning to the collective wellbeing of our school whānau, this month marks the end of the $400 million Schools Investment Package. It was the biggest capital injection for school maintenance funding in at least 25 years.

The package gave every state school and kura in the country money to deliver projects that would benefit both their school whānau and their local community.

It was announced in December 2019. Schools had 24 months to spend their money, but Covid was a major disruptor.

Despite that however, over 24 months, this Government has enabled delivery of almost 4,500 school-led projects at over 2000 schools. They have been extraordinarily successful and we’re seeing evidence of this everywhere.

We know the package enabled many of you to prioritise what was important to you and your school community, not just maintaining the asset. We’ve seen shade sails, sports facilities upgrades, scooter parks and quite a few crazy slides.

These passion projects went to the heart of each school’s vision for teaching and learning, and it has been so satisfying to be able to support that.

Te Pae Roa

I now want to turn briefly to Māori education.

Specifically, the Government’s plans to grow Māori medium and kaupapa Māori education in partnership with Māori arising from Budget 2022.

Associate Education Minister Kelvin Davis intends to introduce legislation in early 2023 to provide a regulatory framework for growing Māori medium education and kaupapa Māori pathways.

The work programme aims to build a better system to support Māori medium and kaupapa Māori education for students, kaiako and whānau.

It aims for a target of 30 percent of Māori learners to be participating in Māori medium and kaupapa Māori schools and early learning services by 2040, and to grow the kaupapa Māori workforce in tertiary education.

Achieving that would result in 60,000 more Māori learners in Māori medium and kaupapa Māori education, 3,500 kaiako fluent in te reo Māori, and 250 more kura.

The Māori Education Oversight Group Te Pae Roa will provide leadership and guidance for the work programme and ensure that it meets Māori and iwi expectations. It is important for Māori to have the ability to shape and direct this work from the outset.

These senior Māori leaders will provide appropriate oversight of the engagement process and the subsequent development and implementation of the overall work programme, including the legislation. 

Te Pae Roa has completed its first round of engagement with Māori and reviewed the feedback from these hui.

Their report back provides initial advice to the Minister on the possible direction of a Māori medium and kaupapa Māori pathways work programme. It proposes that Te Pae Roa and the Ministry of Education work together to develop options on a new system for Māori education. The form of these changes will be worked through in detail, before a second round of engagement this year.

Changes to schools’ planning and reporting

Many of you will be aware that the Education and Training Act 2020 introduces a new planning and reporting framework for all state and state-integrated schools from 1 January 2023.

Under the new framework, schools will need to have a 3-year strategic plan and annual implementation plan instead of an annual charter.  Boards must work in partnership with their communities to develop their three-year strategic plans.

By focusing on a three-year strategic plan that is developed with communities, the intention is for schools and communities to work with families and whānau to set goals, and then the school or kura will take action and monitor progress towards those goals. 

The Ministry is currently engaging with school boards, principals and communities on the development of the new regulations. 

We want to ensure that the regulations achieve a balance between setting minimum standards, whilst realising the opportunity strategic planning could have on addressing inequities and improving ākonga outcomes in the long term, and giving effect to boards’ Te Tiriti objectives.

Your feedback, through these engagements, will help inform what should be made compulsory for the three-year strategic plans and annual implementation plans through the regulations.  It will also help define areas where schools and kura need flexibility to develop plans for their local context that reflect the identities, needs and aspirations of all their communities.

The regulations will then be drafted and shared in a wider public consultation round planned for later this year and into the New Year.

It is proposed that new regulations and guidance material be available by mid-2023 for a proposed 1 January 2024 date for when the first strategic plans made under new regulations will need to be in place.  

Conclusion

I’m now going to hand over to Minister Sio for an update on progress for Māori and Pacific education.

But before I do, I’d like to once again thank you for the way you have all kept the wellbeing of your students and staff at the forefront of your minds whilst dealing with frequently changing health requirements. 

The way you and your staff dealt with the return to onsite learning after extended lockdown periods by ensuring the first few days were fun, extra-welcoming and supportive showed your commitment to the wellbeing of your students.  I saw numerous examples of this around the country.  And I recognise that putting in the extra effort to do this at a time when you were also under enormous pressure, was a huge task.

We knew, when we set out to transform our education system in 2018, that would be challenging. And that was before COPVID was even heard of! And so, it has proved. But I think that, working together, we have made great progress towards building the kind of education system that our learners and our educators need and that will stand us well for the 21st century.