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Back to basics - the BIM and incoming reform in education

December 14, 2017


Partners Sally McKechnie, Helen Smith, Shan Wilson

Government reform and public policy

Education was a key policy battle in 2017’s general election, with many seeing it as a crucial area for Labour to secure the votes of young people. The Hon Chris Hipkins has been appointed as Minister of Education and the Labour-led Government has already begun implementing its high profile policies of increasing maximum student living costs and giving all tertiary students their first year of tuition free in 2018. This week National Standards have been officially brought to a close.

But what other changes could be expected from the education sector over the next three years?

Briefing to incoming Ministers - what the Ministry think

Briefings to incoming Ministers (BIM)s were recently made publically available. These documents explain to each individual Minister the current state of their Ministry, what the Ministry does, and how it can support the Minister in his or her role.

The Education BIM includes a table outlining matters to be discussed with the Minister over his first 100 days. Of note:

  • The BIM discusses the Government’s plan to repeal and replace the decile system currently used to allocate school funding. It remains to be seen what new funding model will be implemented, but the Government has stated that funding will increase for schools which do not charge fees.
  • The Government has already declared an intention to increase mental health professionals in Canterbury schools, with counsellors available to handle challenges students may be dealing with stemming from the earthquakes. A wider roll-out across the country is envisaged; pilot programmes for counsellors in Primary schools will likely begin next year.
  • The Ministry identified early childhood education as a critical stage in a child’s education and a key part of their ongoing future success. There is likely to be increased funding to expand early childhood education, with a focus on lower socio-economic areas.
  • Transportation for school students in rural areas has been identified as a potential area of concern. The Ministry will be accepting tenders for an expanded school bus service designed to ensure students attending rural schools are able to get to school and it may also be available for students who otherwise would struggle with transportation.

Challenges for Minister Hipkins

The new Government already has two clear difficulties on the horizon.

First, one of the most pressing concerns for the Minister to address is the severe shortage of teachers in Auckland.

  • Minister Hipkins has announced a major Government initiative to address this issue. The previous Government’s Voluntary Bonding Scheme (VBS) (where teachers receive financial incentives to work in hard-to-staff schools) will be extended to all beginning teachers in decile two and three schools in Auckland and nationally to include new teachers of science, technology, maths, and Te Reo Māori. To compensate for the extension, the payments will be capped at $10,500 and will be available after teachers work at their school for three years.
  • This is largely the same solution as was announced by the previous Government before the election.
  • The Minister also announced that regulations will be changed to make it easier for overseas teachers from certain countries to teach in New Zealand and marketing campaigns will be developed to encourage more enrolments.
  • The President of the Secondary Principals Association has commented on these proposals being too late to make a difference to the teacher shortage in 2018. It is yet unclear whether these changes will go far enough.
  • The “beginner teacher scheme” will continue. This scheme provides extra resources to schools to employ a freshly qualified teacher for up to six months to shadow an experienced colleague in year 1-4 classes. The school must agree to employ the beginning teacher for two years to get the full benefit.

Second, the Labour-led Government will have to renegotiate collective agreements with both the New Zealand Educational Institute Te Riu Roa (NZEI) and the Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) during 2018.

  • The current collective agreement between the Ministry of Education and the PPTA expires in October 2018.
  • The unions have advised they will be seeking teacher’s salary raises of up to 14.5%, an increase in non-contact time, and other improvements of conditions. The unions anticipate this to be a difficult negotiation period, with industrial action already being forewarned. The two major issues the unions are seeking to address are the severe shortage of teachers across New Zealand, especially in Auckland, and the current low rates of retention among people entering the profession.
  • The Ministry rejected calls from PPTA to immediately increase the pay of teachers by 5%, but it is too early to say whether this is indicative of a tightening of the governmental purse strings in the lead up to the renegotiation. As a traditionally pro-union party, it is unclear how the Labour-led government will respond to union demands and threatened strikes on this scale.

Overall, the new Government may introduce a significant overhaul for New Zealand education. The review of both the decile system and NCEA will fundamentally change the structure of secondary education while also having early childhood education become a significant priority.

Our specialist advisers can assist with interpreting and understanding these issues and how they might affect you and your organisation.