Minister of Education on schools reopening after lockdown

Minister of Education Chris Hipkins talking on Q+A this morning. He said some schools may be able to re-open for some students on 29 April (the Wednesday after Anzac Day), depending on whether the Level 4 lockdown is relaxed or not, but some student working from home is likely for some time.

While Level 3 rules are to be clarified next week Hipkins hinted “When the country moved to alert Level 3, only children of essential workers were able to attend school.”

“Don’t assume when we move from 4 to 3, whenever that may be, that everything will go back at once.”

Alert Level 4 is clear: “educational facilities closed”

Alert Level 3 is vague: “affected educational facilities closed”

The Prime Minister last Thursday (9 April): “We need to give similar more detailed guidance on what life at Level 3 looks like, and we will do that next week.”

School reopening decisions will be made based on public health advice. Children of essential workers may be allowed back to school before others, and some schools are likely to open before others.

Some teachers are older or have health conditions so not all staff may be available as soon as schools get the go-ahead to re-open.

What will schools be like when they restart? The are likely to be quite different. No assemblies and contact limited as much as possible. Social distancing is a particular challenge with young children.

Some children may go back to school part time and do some work from home.

1 News:  Schools given potential return date for students, should Level 4 lockdown be lifted after 28 days

Some students could start returning to school for face-to-face lessons on Wednesday April 29, should the Level 4 lockdown be lifted after four weeks.

However, Education Minister Chris Hipkins told TVNZ1’s Q+A with Jack Tame that parents should be prepared for a “significant amount of young people” to be kept at home for longer, even after the lockdown ends.

If New Zealand comes out of lockdown on the scheduled date of April 22, some schools have been told they could open for learning a week later – the Wednesday after Anzac weekend.

“I do want to keep expectations quite reasonable here. When we move from Level 4 to Level 3 it doesn’t mean everything goes back to normal, even if we have schools and early learning centres open they won’t necessarily be fully open or open for everybody.”

“There’s still a lot of work going on to make sure we’ve got the public health risk of schools and early childhood services fully understood.”

“We do need a bit of time for teachers to come back into their classrooms. It may be in the first instances they may be able to go back into their classrooms and deliver remote learning from that school environment where the broadband connection is better and they have more access to resources.”

Mr Hipkins said there may be changes at schools such as some would not be able to have assemblies “for a while”, students would be asked to limit contact as much as possible and some students may continue learning from home.

He said the workforces that created “the most anxiety when we think about reopening” were those with a high percentage in the ‘at risk’ Covid-19 demographic, including bus drivers, and relief teachers.

Last week, Mr Hipkins presented to the Covid-19 select committee, warning parents to prepare for a variety of different scenarios and for potentially keeping children at home for longer than the end of the lockdown.

“It would be wrong to assume all schools and early learning services would simply reopen as we move out of Level 4 lockdown. That’s not going to happen frankly.

“I’m not saying they won’t reopen at all, but simply saying they’ll all be open from day one isn’t a realistic option.”

When the country moved to alert Level 3, only children of essential workers were able to attend school.

So it looks like it will take a while for most kids to get back to school, even if reduction of Covid restrictions go well,

Note that last line: “When the country moved to alert Level 3, only children of essential workers were able to attend school”.

So we still have to wait and see what the Level 3 rules will be on schools (business and everything else) but Hipkins has given us a big hint.

And then “on the 20th of April, two days before the lockdown is due to finish, Cabinet will make a decision on our next steps” – that is, whether we will drop to level 3 or not. It seems very unlikely we will drop straight to level 2.


Details for ‘learning from home’ rollout

From the Beehive:

Government moving quickly to roll out learning from home

The Ministry of Education is working with partners to develop a package of options so that students can learn at home when Term 2 begins on 15 April, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said today.

Supports are also being prepared for households with children under five, to help parents and whānau keep their children engaged in learning through play, Chris Hipkins said.

“It’s important to reinforce up front that the Government is still working to a timeframe of a four-week Level 4 lockdown but we’re planning for every scenario.

“That means, in education, developing robust distance learning infrastructure and a more resilient system so that learners can receive education in any scenario.

“We’re moving so that all families will have at least one education delivery option available to them when Term 2 starts,” Chris Hipkins said.

“The Ministry has surveyed schools and about half say they are well set up currently for distance learning using the internet. But we are taking action to support new connections and resources for students at all schools.

“Starting this week, the Ministry will be rolling out, in waves, an extensive, four-channel package.

“We’re anticipating a number of logistical challenges in the short term, so our plan is broad enough to ensure every learner has at least one option either through this package or through their school or kura, and we expect many will be able to access more than one. These channels, include:

  • Increasing the number of students who have internet access and devices.
  • Delivering hard copy packs of materials for different year levels.
  • Funding two television channels to broadcast education-related content – one for English medium and one for Māori medium, including content that is targeted to Pacific and other communities.
  • More online resources for parents, available through the Learning from Home and Ki te Ao Mārama websites, and fast-tracking ways to connect Learning Support Coordinators with families remotely.

In addition, more support is being provided to assist schools to set up and make the best use of distance learning, and teachers and leaders will get access to more professional learning and development (PLD) to support them to work remotely with their students.

“We’ve fast-tracked immediate emergency funding of $87.7 million to fund these measures and to provide ongoing nationwide access to online teaching and learning for all scenarios. Further additional funding might be required.

“We know that tens of thousands of households either lack an internet connection or an education device at home. We’re working with telecommunications companies and internet service providers to connect as many of these households as we can as quickly as possible.

“We are also working with schools to identify the students who lack a suitable device for online learning, and we plan to deliver as many devices as possible to the students who will benefit the most. We will be following public health advice as we do this.”

Devices and materials rolled out in waves

“This is a big and complex job being delivered at speed, and there are constraints around the stock of equipment in the country. Not everyone who needs them will get internet access, digital devices and hard packs at the same time,” Chris Hipkins said.

“Where we are unable to immediately connect a household with the Internet or get a device to a student, we will be working with schools and kura to provide hard-copy learning materials direct to homes.

“We will need to prioritise, and reach students and households, with an initial focus on connecting students in senior secondary school working towards NCEA – to minimise disruption for those working towards a qualification – and on those with greatest need due to disadvantage. We will then move down the year levels from years 10 to 1.”

Chris Hipkins said parents should not worry if their child doesn’t receive a device or hard copy materials in the first wave.

“We know there are schools and kura that have plans in place to support students and whānau from 15 April, and will be working with the resources available to them as we can get devices and hard copy materials out to as many learners as we can.

“Principals and teachers are working hard to get ready for the start of the term and to make sure their students remain connected with learning.”

TV channels

“We’re also preparing education broadcasts on two channels, one for English medium schooling and one for Māori medium, starting on 15 April,” Chris Hipkins said.

“The broadcasts will run over six and a half hours during the day, and include specialised content for:

  • Early learners,
  • Parents, to help them support their children’s education,
  • A broad curriculum that includes movement, music, physical education, wellbeing, numeracy, literacy and science through an integrated approach to curriculum,
  • An hour of Te Reo Māori, and
  • Pacific and other communities.

“There’s already a lot of good education video content available, and the Ministry is working with experts and educators to refine and further develop it.”

Web-based resources

The Ministry of Education is also building up the resources it provides on the Learning from Home and Ki te Ao Mārama websites.

Chris Hipkins said public health remains the Government’s number one focus, but families, learners and schools are increasingly focused on preparations for Term 2.

“The Government wants to reassure people that we are mobilising our resources at great speed during this extraordinary time so that we can provide the best possible level of education in all potential scenarios.

“I am proud of and grateful for the efforts of the Ministry and the entire education sector and our other partners in the public and private sectors to enable distance learning during the Covid-19 emergency.

“The Ministry has received more than 100 offers of extra resources and assistance from businesses wanting to do their bit to help, and is working on the best way to mobilise them as quickly as possible.

“I would also like to thank parents and learners for their understanding.

It’s important to remember that despite these resources becoming available in homes, parents aren’t expected to become teachers. Teachers will continue to have the primary role in students’ learning.

“Together we will support New Zealand’s efforts to save lives through physical distancing, while minimising the impact on children’s learning and wellbeing.”

Here are the links to the hard-packs being assembled –

Q and A

What is the estimated flow of modem deliveries?

We are working on the commercial arrangements with Internet Service Providers (ISPs).  As supplies become available, we expect to ramp up to sending out thousands of modems each week.  Around 2000 this week.

We believe there are about 350 students where there is currently no internet potential of any kind. We are exploring the possibility of satellite coverage for these households.

What is the estimated flow of internet-ready devices for students to work on?

About 17,000 devices have been ordered and are confirmed to be shipped to students and ākonga in April. Not all will arrive before 15 April, and it may take up to a month for all of them to be sent to households. Many schools already have their own stocks.

We are working to secure thousands more devices from offshore.

What materials will be available in hard copy?

Information about the content of the packs can be viewed on line at

What kind of devices are being supplied?

Typically schools and kura will have the option of selecting from laptops or Chromebooks, depending on what they are already using.

What about insurance cover – who pays for replacement/repair if something goes wrong?

The Ministry is providing insurance cover for devices sent to student homes where they are not already covered by the school’s insurance.

Will accessories like a mouse and keyboard be provided?

The device comes with a power supply cable but not additional accessories.

Do families get to keep the devices after children go back to school?

The devices are registered to schools and kura and that decision will rest with them.

Will my child’s time online be monitored?

The devices we supply are pre-loaded with a content filter to block inappropriate content.

As always with the internet, parents and whānau are encouraged to supervise their children’s online activities. Schools and kura may have suggest software or apps for this purpose, and there is helpful information for parents and children about staying safe online on the Netsafe website.

There will be no central monitoring.

How many hard copy packs are being printed and for which years?

Depending on demand, and subject to printing and delivery logistics, we are prepared to ship tens of thousands of packs if required over the coming weeks.

A variety of packs are being prepared for all age groups – early learners and from year 1 through NCEA, including for learners in Māori medium. We will start by prioritising delivery these to younger students and those who are disadvantaged.  NCEA students will be able to request packs across up to six subject areas each.

A variety of educational resources will be available, including books, literacy, maths and science resources and some stationery.  The packs will include a parent and whānau guidance sheet on supporting their child’s learning, and with suggestions for activities.

Schools will be advised when students receive a pack so teachers can connect with learners as they work on the packs where they can.

Information about the content of the packs can be viewed on line at

We will be able to provide updates over the coming days as demand becomes clearer and distribution begins.

Around 20,000 packs will be delivered this week, and 40,000 will be available for delivery next week.

Hipkins questioned about teacher strikes and budget

With the largest teacher strike ever planned to coincide with this week’s budget Minister of Eduction Chris Hipkins was interviewed on NewsHub Nation.

“…with $1.2 billion on the table and a $10,000 pay rise for most teachers on the table, we think that that’s as far as we can go in terms of putting more money in their pay packets in this pay round.”

Simon Shepherd: This week, a megastrike. The words no Education Minister wants to hear. For the first time in New Zealand history, all state and integrated schools will strike together this Wednesday. The action comes after talks failed to secure an offer acceptable to the 50,000 affected teachers and principals. I asked Chris Hipkins if he had a last minute deal to stop the strike going ahead.

Chris Hipkins: Look, we’re going to continue talking to the teachers, right up till the point of the strike action. If we can avoid strike action, of course we would like to do that. We’ve been very clear, though, that with $1.2 billion on the table and a $10,000 pay rise for most teachers on the table, we think that that’s as far as we can go in terms of putting more money in their pay packets in this pay round. But we also recognise that for many teachers this is about more than just pay, and they’re raising a whole lot of other issues that they also want us to address.

Well, let’s talk about pay. They want a package, between them all, of like $3.9 billion. It seems you guys are like a universe apart. Is there no more money to just get this done?

We’ve been really clear that for salaries there isn’t any more money on the table, and there’s not going to be, but there are many other issues that teachers are raising. We know that there are more kids in classrooms that have additional learning needs, for example. We do need to do more in that area. We know that there are big workload issues that teachers are grappling with, and we need to do more in that area. We’ll keep talking to them about how we can address those issues, but in terms of the pay round, we’ve been pretty clear that $1.2 billion is what there is.

The Crown had a surplus in the March figures of $2.5 billion, and the teachers are going to be looking at that and going, ‘Look, there’s some money.’

I don’t think teachers will put their hands up to take a pay cut, if the surplus were to go down. You can’t base your decisions about pay negotiations based on government surpluses because actually every other workforce in the public sector is looking at that money as well. We’ve got to look at what’s sustainable. We’ve also got a number of other big workforces— nurses will be back in bargaining next year. We’ve got doctors in bargaining. You’ll have police back in bargaining next year, and we do have to think about what are sustainable pay rises across the public service? Teachers are right at the top of those. You know, they are being offered some of the biggest pay rises across the broader public sector

Secondary principals now have a pay claim as well. Are you fearful that you’re going to see another strike on your hands from them?

Look, we’ll go into those negotiations in good faith. The secondary principal bargaining is just getting underway, and we need to let that take its course.

You talk about this pay round. What about next pay round? Is that one of the reasons that the government’s decided to loosen its debt cap — to create more money, to be able to borrow more money, to be able to make these kind of pay rounds work?

I’m not going to pre-empt the next pay round before we’ve even concluded this pay round. I’ve always been very clear with the teachers — as long as I have been doing this job for the Labour Party, and that was five years in opposition as well — that they need to think about their pay strategy over every pay cycle and not just a big action roughly every 15 years when there’s a Labour government.

This mega-strike that’s coming up on Wednesday, I mean, that’s hundreds of thousands of children, parents affected. Do you understand what kind of effect that this is going to have for families?

Well, look, I know that this will have a big impact for families. I don’t think that the strike action is justified. As I’ve said, the pay rise on the table now over the next two years is worth an average of $10,000 to the majority of teachers so that is a pretty sizeable pay increase. It’s $1.2 billion, and actually parents are also saying that they want the government to get serious about mental health, they want the government to properly fund district health boards, so that the hospitals that they go to are well-funded and well-resourced. They also want us to deal with the housing shortage and the housing crisis. They want us to lift children out of poverty. We need to be able to do all of those things.

But how long can you let this drag on for? One of these pay negotiations has been going on for more than 18 months.

Look, we continue to negotiate. We went to the Employment Relations Authority late last year. The Employment Relations Authority, in fact, said to the primary school teachers at the time that they thought the government’s offer was very competitive — ‘handsome and competitive’ was how they described it. We’re doing everything that we can.

And you’ve gone back there now? I mean, there’s new, urgent talks on the table, isn’t there?

That’s right. We are doing everything that we can to continue to sit around the table to try and resolve the issues that the teachers are raising. But obviously, any government — whether it’s our government or any other government — is always going to have a limit to the amount of money that they can put on the table in any given pay round.

Okay. Let’s talk about this week in parliament. Haven’t really seen anything like this before with allegations of bullying, harassment, sexual assault — how surprised were you at the findings of the Francis Report?

Look, I think parliament has come a long way over the last 20 or 30 years in terms of changing its culture, being more representative of all New Zealanders, but we’ve still got a long way to go nad I think the Francis Report clearly highlights that. We need to change the culture around this place. We need to create a much more people-friendly environment, and clearly there are some big areas for improvement.

You’ve been here — what? —almost 10 years, 10 and a half years, have you been involved, have you seen, have you experienced bullying and harassment of this nature?

Look, I wouldn’t say that I’ve been the victim of bullying. I have seen people treating other people inappropriately and unfairly. Now let’s just be clear about this — in a democratic system of government, like we have here in New Zealand, an adversarial approach is built into it. You know, it’s designed to be adversarial, and that is going to create conflict. There’s a different between legitimate conflict, legitimate scrutiny, legitimate accountability, and bullying. And certainly the staff, the interactions that some MPs have with staff, the interactions that some staff would have with each other — they’re not okay, and we need to be really clear in saying that. You can be adversarial, you can do your job in a democratic system without treating people as abysmally as some people around here have been treated.

It’s also been described as a very high-intensity workload. I mean, you’re a father, you’ve got to manage your family as well as this. I mean, how hard is it to be able to do the job?

Look, it’s a tough job. MPs are away from their homes a lot. I’m lucky in one sense, as a Wellington MP, I get to go home every night to my family. I think everybody who’s working who has a family struggles with this. I think MPs particularly, given the lengths of time they spend away from their families, do really struggle with that.
Okay, but what changes do you think should be made within parliament, both for staff and members, to make it more family-friendly?

Well, I think that the Francis Report, again, sets out some good recommendations around how we can improve the culture of this place.

What recommendations do you like?

Well, I think having a single point of contact or various points of contact for people who are feeling bullied or feeling harassed, so that they know where they can go to get extra help. We’ve been working for some time to make this place a bit more family-friendly. I think it humanises parliament a bit more, and I think we’ve made real advances in that in recent years, and there’s more that we can do there too.

So do you think we need a wider review, like the Francis Report, but for the wider public service? Do you think this kind of culture exists out there?

Look, I think any workplace is going to have challenges, if they have a culture that allows bullying. Now, without going through every different department or agency, I can’t say where that might exist, but my message to every chief executive in the public service, is my expectation of them is that they will ensure that their workplace is not one of those workplaces that has that type of culture.

Okay. It’s Budget Week, and Finance Minister Grant Robertson has been looking around for extra cash, and he’s taken $197 million dollars from the tertiary education policy — the ‘fees-free’ policy. Why not just give that to the teachers?

Well, when we set up the ‘fees-free’ policy, we deliberately budgeted conservatively because it’s very difficult when you’re introducing a new policy like that to understand the behavioural effects of that. You know, enrolments could have gone up significantly, they might not have. You’ve got to be conservative. You have to make sure that the money is there if you need it. We knew that we were probably going to get some money back from that. That money is going to go back into tertiary education, particularly into vocational education — where we know that our polytechs have been scaling back, where we know we’ve got critical skill shortages in areas like building and construction. so that money is still going into education, and it’s going into an area where we’ve also got a big pressing need.

With this tertiary policy— I mean, the Labour policy was to roll out free years in the second and third year by 2024. Has that gone?

No, that hasn’t gone. That continues to be the Labour Party’s policy. Of course, it’s a coalition government, so everything is—

So you can’t commit to that for the next election, is that what you’re saying?

Well, what I’m saying is we’ll go into the next election campaign with a very clear policy. Under this government where it’s a coalition government, the commitment that we made in this term was to introduce the first year free, which is what we have done. You know, beyond the next election, of course, that’s going to depend on the outcome of the election.

Okay. Finally, one last word to the teachers and the pupils and the parents who are going to be the subject of this strike this week, I mean, what would you say to them?

I would say that this strike isn’t necessary, that we are hearing the concerns of teachers. We are committed to addressing them. We have given teachers a very significant pay offer, the largest that they’ve had in over a decade. In fact, it’s worth more than all of the other pay offers that they’ve had over the last decade put together, and we’re also committed to working on the other issues that they’re raising.

Chris Hipkins on education reviews

Hostile reception for Minister of Education in Invercargill

Plans to reform the administration of schools is in it’s consultation stage. Good on Minister of Education Chris Hipkins fronting up in Invercargill, where he received some good Southland straight taking.

ODT: Hostile southern reception for Hipkins

Education Minister Chris Hipkins’s bid to reassure a public meeting in Invercargill that the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) would not be destroyed in his plans to merge the country’s 16 polytechnic was met with disbelief and hostility.

In his address Mr Hipkins paid tribute to SIT’s achievements and said the Government wanted this replicated on a national scale.

It has been pointed out that one size doesn’t fit all pupils or regions in education.

One speaker at the public meeting of about 500 people made it clear how angry she was at the proposals.

“If I had sandals or something I would be giving it to you because you are flip-flopping all over the place.”

Any size would probably do there.

Invercargill councillor Toni Biddle said his decision would be detrimental to the community, the iwi, housing and future generations.

“I feel frustrated because there is a lot of smoke and mirrors and no guarantees. You never worried about Southland before, so why worry about us now? You don’t want to be the minister that completely demolished the work that we have done for the last five years.”

He drew a rebuke from SIT CEO Penny Simmonds when he said that much was already decided nationally, including the institution’s budgets.

Ms Simmonds pointed out that a third of SIT’s did not come from government, but from other sources.

Speaking afterwards, she said much of what Mr Hipkins was saying was not in the proposals.

“We don’t know how this works. We are lost about what he is saying here and what is written.”

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt, speaking in the afternoon, after Mr Hipkins held a meeting with the SIT Council, said Mr Hipkins had offered “nothing specific” in terms of SIT’s future.

“It was a lot of vague promises taking us into the promised land.”

That isn’t going down well in Southland where they prefer that a swede is called a swede (the turnip variety).

But speaking before a visit to Waihopai Primary School, Mr Hipkins said that the community’s understandably “passionate” welcome had been fully expected.

He said that that while the country was moving to a national system it had to still be decided what would be run nationally and what would be run locally.

He repeatedly stressed that no decisions had been taken and described the the proposal as “a framework” in which to improve vocational training.

That sounds like mushy overcooked swede.

He said fears that SIT would lose its distance learning facility were unfounded.

His attempts to appease those in the audience appeared to fall on deaf ears and one speaker accused him of punishing SIT for being successful.

SIT is something Southland has worked hard for. Taking away their points of difference would be like banning the Ranfurly Shield from Southland, or banning oysters.

More from ODT: ‘Vague promises’ over SIT’s future

I wonder if Hipkins will go to Invercargill to announce what reforms he ends up deciding on.

Major changes for Polytechnics proposed by Government

Polytechnics around the country have been struggling financially for some time. In response the Government is proposing all sixteen Polytechnics be merged into one ‘entity’ called the New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology (even the acronym NZIST or NZIOSAT will not be particularly catchy).

Public consultation on the proposed will run to 27th March, so this looks like a rush job, particularly compared to a lot of long drawn out inquiries and working groups.

I can’t see the changes signalled in Labour’s 2017 election manifesto, and it is not mentioned in either governing agreement with NZ First or the Greens.

Beehive: A new future for work skills training in NZ

Education Minister Chris Hipkins today released wide-ranging proposals for strengthening vocational education so that school leavers get high quality training opportunities, employers get the skills they need and New Zealanders are better equipped for the changing nature of work.

“Instead of our institutes of technology retrenching, cutting programmes, and closing campuses, we need them to expand their course delivery in more locations around the country.

“It’s time to reset the whole system and fundamentally rethink the way we view vocational education and training, and how it’s delivered.

“The Coalition Government proposes to establish a unified, coordinated, national system of vocational education and training. The proposals are:

  • Redefined roles for education providers and industry bodies (Industry Training Organisations (ITOs)) to extend the leadership role of industry and employers;
  • Bringing together the 16 existing ITPs as a one entity with the working title of the New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology with a robust regional network of provision; and
  • A unified vocational education funding system.

“We would also ensure there’s strong regional influence in the New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology through the proposed formation of Regional Leadership Groups which would identify the needs of the local economy and become a key link between local government, employers, iwi and communities.

“The development of courses and programmes would be consolidated, improving consistency and freeing up resources to expand front-line delivery. There will be more sharing of expertise and best-practice, and more use of online, distance, and blended learning.

“The Government envisages that the New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology, and perhaps also wānanga, host Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs). These power houses of expertise could cover key sectors and industries, which could be broad (eg, agriculture) or specific (eg, viticulture).

“What we are proposing is ambitious, but it needs to be. We cannot continue to tweak the system knowing that the model is fundamentally broken, and isn’t delivering our workforce the skills that they need to thrive.

“The proposals released today may go ahead in this or another form, but the Government won’t make any decisions until we have heard and carefully considered feedback from this consultation process,” Chris Hipkins said.

Public consultation is open until 27 March.

Six weeks seems a short timeframe for consultation on such major changes. .

It has been reported that the intention is to have these changes up and running by the end of the year.

Hipkins seems to be one of the better ministers for providing information available.

The decision making documents are dated from 28 March 2018, showing that changes have been considered for at least a year, probably initiated just after Hipkins took over as Minister of Education.

There was no mention of reform of Polytechnics in either the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement or the Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement.

There is no mention of it in Labour’s Vision for Education, their 2017 campaign policy document.

From Labour’s Education Manifesto:

Strong Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics

Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs) are a crucial element of New Zealand’s tertiary education system. They play a key role in ensuring that the workforce has the skills and training to drive innovation and to ensure labour market needs are met. They are important for regional development, and serve as economic ‘anchors’ for the communities they serve.

  • Labour will ensure that there is a strong network of regional public institutions dedicated to meeting the labour market and skill needs of our regions.
  • Labour will establish Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs) to be based at Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics to provide a focus for driving excellence in training, research and innovation in a particular industry
  • Labour will improve the way that ITPs and ITOs work together including through joint curriculum development, clearer qualifications and more flexible learning pathways.

I can’t see any reference in the rest of the manifesto for centralising administration of the Polytechnics.

They emphasise “Labour will ensure that there is a strong network of regional public institutions”.

It will be interesting to see how they achieve this by merging 16 regional providers into one centralised body – I presume centralised in Wellington or Auckland.

Kaye and Hipkins working together on language teaching bill

This is a very good sign from two younger senior politicians – Minister of Education Chris Hipkins is supporting Former education minister Nikki Kaye’s members’ bill – the Education (Strengthening Second Language Learning in Primary and Intermediate Schools) Amendment Bill – to at least the committee stage in Parliament.

NZ Herald:  Ex-education minister Nikki Kaye signs up sitting Minister Chris Hipkins to progress bill for teaching languages

Foreign language learning in primary schools looks likely to become commonplace for Kiwi kids with widespread political support for a private member’s bill promoting second-language teaching from a young age.

Former education minister Nikki Kaye has won the support of current Education Minister Chris Hipkins and the Labour caucus, plus the Greens and Act, to progress her bill to select committee.

The bill is also likely to extend the provision of Māori language teaching in schools as well as foreign languages.

The bill requires the Government to set 10 priority languages – likely to include Mandarin, Spanish, French, Japanese, Korean, Pacific languages and possibly Hindi as well as official languages Te Reo Māori and New Zealand Sign Language.

It also requires the Government to resource the provision of those languages in primary and intermediate schools.

Kaye said a number of issues would need to be worked through at select committee.

“These include investing in workforce development to ensure we have the teachers and that adequate time is given for schools to implement this. I realise this could be phased in over a number of years.”

The bill won’t come up for its first reading vote until next year but she has had a commitment in writing from Labour, the Greens and Act that they will support it. New Zealand First is still considering it. Kaye was particularly complimentary about Hipkins.

“He has been incredibly generous and understanding that while there may need to be some changes to the bill in the future, that he is supportive to send it to select committee.”

Hipkins said there was real value in second-language learning.

“Kids who do a second language generally tend to do better in their first language,” he said.

“It is not going to be something that any Government can deliver in three, six or even nine years. It is going to be something we are going to have to work on over a long period of time.”

He said one of the areas of debate would be around the concept of priority languages, the role of Pacific languages, the focus on Asian languages in the context of economic partnerships and the traditional European languages which have taught for a long time.

“I’m not sure whether we should restrict down to a small list of priority languages but the bill gives us an opportunity to have that discussion.”

He welcomed the opportunity to have a discussion about what was taught in schools, including language learning, on a cross-party basis rather than being divided along party lines.

This is a good bill to have put into the Members’ ballot, so good on Kaye for that. Lucky it was drawn.

And it is very good to see the ex-minister and current Minister, from normally opposing parties, working together to get this bill debated and worked over in Parliament. It doesn’t guarantee it will end up passing, but this shows our MPs and parties are capable of working together on policies of common interest.

I would like to see more of this cooperation between the Government and the Opposition – it does happen quite a bit as business as usual in Parliament but usually gets little or no attention.

Holding to account, and even attacking opponents constructively, are important parts of our democratic system, but those actions should be exceptions rather than the norm.

Unfortunately media tend to prefer to report on conflict rather than cooperation, but I think that most voters would prefer to see more working together between all our representatives in Parliament.

This cooperation on Kaye’s language bill is a very good sign.

Q+A: Chris Hipkins on reforming the public service

Minister of Education (and Minister of a bunch of other things) was interviewed on Q+A last night, about various wage claims and about the public service overall – he said that they will be talking more over the next few weeks about a programme aimed at reforming the public service so it delivered better outcomes for New Zealanders.

Hipkins was asked whether the announcement that performance pay for public service CEOs would be scrapped was a signal to  nurses seeking pay rises. He said it was a separate policy that had been worked on for some time.

He says they are focussed pay equity claims. The Government wants to see wage restraint “at the top end of the system”, but want to deal with issues for people on low incomes on people – “at the worker end”.

Hipkins didn’t want to get into the detail on negotiations under way with teachers, who are asking for a 16% increase. They are not exactly at the low end as far as wages go.

Bargaining with secondary teachers is just beginning and he acknowledges that their expectations are high, but quickly diverted to other issues facing teachers.

Challenged on expectations after their election campaigning he says they are offering much more than the previous Government did (it much different economic circumstances), and then diverts again – “we made a very clear commitment that we could do better than the last Government, and i believe we are doing better than the last Government, but our commitment during the campaign was crystal clear, that our first priority would be those on the lowest incomes, and in the school system that’s people like teacher aides, we’ve got a pay equity claim there that we’re working on.

But the priority for nurses was their own wages. Same for primary teachers. Neither can be classed as low wage earners. Especially if they get the increases they are seeking they will be above average earners.

When challenged that teacher claims were not a priority Hipkins said that no, they were ‘a priority’. So ‘priority’ seems to be a fairly broad term here.

Asked about dropping state sector performance pay, in relation to teachers, this meant that poor performers will paid the same as good performers.

Hipkins: The changes their recognise that actually good outcomes require a team effort. In all public services delivering better outcomes for New Zealanders is a team effort, and therefore singling one or two people out and giving them significant bonuses doesn’t reflect the fact that actually many people contribute to that outcome.

Dann: Are your Government sending a message to the state sector, teachers, people who work for the Government, that they’ve almost got to have a sense of civil duty here, that there’s a civil service, you’re doing it for the love of it. That’s got to be a part of it doesn’t it?

Hipkins: It’s in the name. It’s public service. We do expect it to be public service.

Security of employment and pay rates suggests that being a public servant can be a pretty good deal compared to many workers in the private sector.

Dann: When you’re on four hundred grand or something running a state sector, that’s ah, that’s little bit more than just doling it for the love of it isn’t it?

Hipkins: Look, people at the senior end of the public service are well paid, and we’ve been very clear um that our priority…

Dann: Is it too much? I mean in general if could’ve gone back nine years you wouldn’t be paying them this much, would you.

Hipkins: Well I wouldn’t have wanted to see the big growth in chief executive salaries that we’ve seen over the last nine years…we start from the position that we’ve removed the performance that is going to result in a downward dip in chief executive’s overall package.

Following the team player thing, should principals, teachers and teacher aids all be paid similar amounts in providing a public service?

Hipkins: I’m not at all concerned that that we’re not going to be able to recruit very very good public service leaders because of the changes we’ve made to remove the bonuses.

A political neutral public service:

Hipkins: The Government as a whole has got an absolute commitment to a politically neutral public service. We think that the public service should be able to serve us as a Government, and whomever the next Government is.

On reforming the public service:

Hipkins: We’ve got a very broad public sector reform programme which we’re going to be talking a bit more about in the next few weeks. It is about reforming the public service. It is about focussing on delivering better outcomes for New Zealanders.

Pushed on Shane Jones’ comments on being able to appoint his own ‘shit-kickers’ to get what he wants done.

Hipkins: I think the Government as a whole isn’t going to go down the route of politicising the senior level of public the service.

Dann: Is there scope for Jones’ suggestion in specific cases under this new reform you’re talking about.

Hipkins: Well there’s already some scope to do that within the existing system.

Dann: More scope?

Hipkins: Look, we’ll work our way through that.

Dann: You seem to be suggesting to me that it’s possible because you’re not wanting to answer this question.

Hipkins: Well no, what I’m saying is we’re going too keep a politically neutral public service. That’s beyond debate. Ministers can appoint purchase advisers for example within their ministerial offices whop will provide them with free and frank advice, give them an alternative stream of advice. They can go to the treasury for example and get alternative advice to the ones supplied by their department. All of those things are possible now.

Getting advice is quite different from shit kicking to get things done the way the Minister wants. Hipkins has avoided answering on that.

What’s the key thrust of the reforms?

Hipkins: What we’re focussed on is moving the public service from a working in silos to actually looking at working across public service and saying if we want to deliver better outcomes for New Zealanders that’s going to require Government departments to work together rather than just focussing on their own individual patch.

It could be quite a challenge trying to break down public servant patch protection.

Hipkins: The concept that I’d talk about is ‘no wrong door’. If someone’s interacting with the public service i think they get frustrated when they say well no, actually you’ve got to deal with that department, then you’ve got to deal with that department and they’re given the run around.

We don’t want tot see that. Actually I want to see the public service operating as a coordinated whole, to deliver the services that New Zealanders…

Dann: It sounds quite radical.

Hipkins: I think it will see some significant changes.

Reforming the public service to work more as a whole team sounds like quite a challenge.

Minister extends NCEA consultation after meeting principals

It’s good to see a positive response from Nikki Kaye to the extension of consultation on NCEA announced by Minister of Education Chris Hipkins. And good to see Hipkins listen and adjust his approach.

NZH: Advisory group of principals and teachers to be set up to consult on NCEA review

Education Minister Chris Hipkins will set up an advisory group of teachers and principals to consult on the NCEA review, and has extended the consultation period after complaints from a coalition of 70 schools which said the process was being rushed.

Hipkins has written to members of the Principals NCEA Coalition today after an urgent meeting last week, confirming that he would speak to his Cabinet colleagues about proposed changes to the proposed review process.

He would establish a professional advisory group made up of principals and teachers, in addition to a ministerial advisory group already set up, to advise him on the outcomes from the review process next year.

In addition, the consultation period would be extended from September 16 until October 19 this year.

“We are grateful to the minister for meeting with us and welcome these initial changes as a good start,” said coalition spokesman Glen Denham, principal of West Auckland’s Massey High School.

“As a 70-strong coalition, we will now begin work on our vision for NCEA and the details of how it should operate. New Zealand’s remaining secondary schools are very welcome to join us. It is vital to get this right for the future of the young people of New Zealand,” Denham said in a statement.

Hipkins had issued an open invitation to principals to meet him last month after the coalition took out a full-page advertisement in newspapers which criticised the NCEA review.

The group called for the review to be halted, describing the consultation process as “bizarre”, putting the views of children ahead of professional educators and lacking proper consultation with school leaders and teachers.

Hipkins previously said he believed the process would be sufficient and would not be extending the consultation period.

Today he said the changes were a “sensible step that acknowledges the issues raised by the coalition.

“We’ve already had about 1000 submissions from teachers and principals but I’m happy to improve the clarity of the process and give principals more opportunities to be heard alongside teachers, parents, students, employers and others.”

It’s refreshing to see a Minister prepared to meet, listen, and improve consultation.

And it’s refreshing to see an Opposition spokesperson who is often critical prepared to back a sensible move.

Chris Hipkins ‘Ask Me Anything’ today on NCEA

Minister of Education Chris Hipkinsn is fronting up on line to allow people to ‘Ask me Anything’ about NCEA, and I presume anything else about education or government.

Reddit: Announcing NCEA AMA with Chris Hipkins and Jeremy Baker – July 9th 3:15pm

r/nz is pleased to announce an AMA with Education Minister, Chris Hipkins this Monday at 3:15pm. Here’s a quick message from the Minister:

Chris Hipkins:

I’m really pleased to have this chance to discuss NCEA with you all, and answer any questions you have about NCEA and the review which is underway.

I’ll be joined by Jeremy Baker, Chair of my Ministerial Advisory Group who developed the thinking around the ‘Big Opportunities’ for strengthening the qualification for all our young people. These opportunities are designed to provoke, inspire, and encourage the kōrero on NCEA. Please feel free to ask questions about these ideas, or about NCEA and the review.

There’s some good conversation happening about education in New Zealand at the moment. To make this session useful it would be good to keep this conversation focused on NCEA. Feel free to submit your other views on education through our Education Conversation website –

I want to make NCEA a stronger qualification for all our young people – Ask me Anything!