Bill features biggest education changes in decades

The Education and Training Bill 2019, introduced in Parliament today, features the biggest changes to education in decades.

The Bill aims to establish a more learner-focused, higher-quality, culturally responsive, and inclusive education system for all of New Zealand’s children, young people and adult learners.

The Bill is not yet law. It will go to the Education and Workforce Committee for consideration, at which point members of the public will be invited to make submissions on the Bill. 

The Bill’s provisions give effect to the Government’s plans to transform early learning, schooling, and tertiary and vocational education. Its suggested changes are based on feedback from the 2018 Education Summits, from over 48,000 participants in the Kōrero Mātauranga | Education Conversation, and from the Government’s response to the Tomorrow’s Schools Taskforce’s final report.

The Bill’s proposed main changes for schooling include:

  • Modifying school boards’ primary objectives to include, alongside educational achievement, ensuring the physical and emotional safety of students and staff, being inclusive and catering for students with differing needs and giving effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
  • The requirement for boards to give effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi includes ensuring their plans and local curriculum reflect local tikanga Māori, by achieving equitable outcomes for Māori learners and by taking all reasonable steps to make instruction available in tikanga Māori and te reo Māori.
  • Enabling the Minister to issue a Code of Conduct, setting minimum conduct standards for board members.
  • The development of set criteria, in consultation with educators, to assist school boards with the appointment of principals. Boards will retain the right to appoint principals within this framework.
  • Ensuring more local children can attend their local schools by shifting responsibility for enrolment schemes from boards to the Ministry of Education. Boards will continue to have input into enrolment schemes.
  • Strengthening the rights of parents, whānau and students by enabling the creation of independent complaint and dispute resolution panels. These would investigate serious disputes, such as suspensions and exclusions or learning support provision, where matters cannot be resolved with the school.
  • Requiring boards to consult with their students (as appropriate), their staff and school communities when making school rules.

The Bill also proposes to strengthen the quality, viability, safety and supply of early learning services. Proposals include:

  • Allowing the Minister to approve or decline applications to open a new early learning service for network capacity and applicant suitability reasons.
  • Police vetting to be required for all adults living or present in a home where home based early learning and care are offered.
  • Increasing the fine for early learning centres operating without a licence to a maximum of $50,000.
  • Giving the Education Review Office (ERO) more powers to review the quality of home based early learning services.

 Other proposed changes result from Cabinet decisions on recent consultations. These include: 

  • Renaming special schools as ”specialist schools” to reflect their role in providing specialist expertise for the schooling network.
  • Changing restraint requirements so teachers know that physical force can be used, as a last resort, to keep students safe. Seclusion remains prohibited.
  • Clarifying that the right to education includes a right to attend for all hours a school is open for instruction. The change will mean that students can no longer be excluded from schools for some of the hours that they are open.
  • Requiring State primary and intermediate schools and kura that allow religious instruction to do so on an ‘opt-in’ basis. This will ensure parental consent for a student’s participation.

Support for the changes 

The proposed Education Service Agency (ESA) will support boards in any changes to their roles and responsibilities, and help learners, parents and whānau to increase their engagement in education.

More information can be found about these proposals, which are not part of the Bill, can be read in the 'Supporting all schools to succeed' full report. 

Full report: Supporting all schools to succeed: Reform of Tomorrow’s Schools system(external link)

Further information

Education and Training Bill details

The Bill will be referred to the Education and Workforce Committee for public submissions on the New Zealand Parliament website.

Education and Workforce Committee homepage – NZ Parliament(external link)


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