Report back of the Education Amendment Bill (No 2) – key changes proposed

This Bill was reported back to Parliament by the Education and Workforce Committee on 5 April. It was first introduced in September 2018. The Bill amends the Education Act 1989, the Education Act 1964, and the Education (Update) Amendment Act 2017.

The following is an overview of the key proposed changes.

Protecting the public interest in Teaching Council decision making

The Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand (the Council) has significant influence over the quality of teaching, and the supply and diversity of the teaching workforce. This creates a substantial public interest in its work, which affects all New Zealanders, and children and young people in particular. For this reason, it’s important that Council decisions can be aligned with the Government’s policy directions for the wider education system.

The Bill, as reported back, recommends that the Minister of Education be able to issue a "statement of Government policy," regarding one or more of the Council’s functions. The Bill, as introduced, gave the Minister the ability to issue a "policy direction" regarding these functions. The change makes it clear that the Council, as an independent entity, must have regard to a statement of Government policy, but is not required to follow it. This was always the intent of the Bill.

The Bill, as reported back, recommends that the Council be able to make minor changes, to criteria for teacher registration or any standards of qualification, without consulting the Minister. As introduced, the Bill required the Council to consult the Minister before changing any of these criteria or standards.

The Committee has also recommended, in the Bill as reported back, that any statement of Government policy be presented to Parliament as well as being Gazetted and given in writing to the Council.

Student safety a registration criterion for private schools

No changes have been made to these parts of the Bill as introduced.

The Bill amends the Education Act 1989 to include a new registration criterion for private schools which requires that they are a safe physical and emotional place for students. This means that, for new private schools, students’ physical and emotional safety must be considered as a criterion when the Secretary for Education assesses a private school’s application for registration. The proposed change means that a private school’s registration can be cancelled where the school is not providing a safe physical and emotional place for students and is not likely to do so within a further reasonable time. Before a registration can be cancelled, the Secretary must advise the school of any concerns and give school managers the opportunity to respond.  

The new criterion will also enable the Education Review Office (ERO) to review private schools’ safety policies and procedures. Private schools already registered will not need to reapply for registration, but will need to able to demonstrate that they meet the new criterion 6 months after the provisions come into force.

Cohort (group) entry

The Education (Update) Amendment Act 2017 enabled schools to adopt and enforce a cohort entry policy starting from Term 1, 2018. These changes allowed 4 year olds to start at school.

The Bill changes the requirements for cohort entry so that children can still start school in groups, but only after they have turned 5. This is in line with the recommendation of the 2015 Advisory Group on Early Learning. These requirements have not changed in the Bill as reported back.

The Bill enables schools to adopt and enforce a cohort entry policy for students over 5, with 2 groups per term — students can start school on the first day of term, or at a mid-point during a term, after they have turned 5. Students could start in groups up until they turn 6, at which age school enrolment is compulsory.

If a school has a current cohort entry policy on 1 January 2020, the new law will automatically apply to that policy.  Schools may wish to inform their communities to reflect the changes that children beginning school as part of a cohort must be 5 or older, and that there are two cohort entry points per term (start date and mid-term date). Schools adopting cohort entry for the first time under the new settings will need to consult with their communities.

Repealing the start-up of communities of online learning

In 2017, the Education Act 1989 was amended to introduce a new system for distance education, communities of online learning (COOLs). This would have enabled the Minister of Education to accredit providers from the public and the private sectors to offer online tuition to full-time and part-time school students. This system was due to come into force on 31 December 2019.

The Bill, as introduced, and as reported back, repeals these provisions. This will provide time for the issues to be considered in the context of the wider education sector reviews.

Existing providers such as Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (The Correspondence School) and the Virtual Learning Networks will continue to offer distance education on the same basis as they do now.

Regulatory Impact Statements

The following Regulatory Impact Statements relate to the Education Amendment Bill (No 2).

Cohort entry RIS [PDF, 3.2 MB]

Communities of online learning (COOL) RIS [PDF, 2.4 MB]

Education Council RIS [PDF, 3.5 MB]

Private schools RIS [PDF, 2.6 MB]

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