New Zealand Labour Party

Labour's Vision for Education

Labour believes education gives our young people the freedom and opportunities to be the best they can be and contribute to making New Zealand an even better place to live.

National has chosen to undermine quality as a cost-saving measure. After nine years of being under resourced and overstretched, our education sector is under immense pressure and the quality of education is suffering. The result is a narrowing of the curriculum, more burnt out teachers, and falling tertiary education participation.

More costs are being pushed on to parents and students. ECE fees have risen by an average of 25 per cent under National, while so called voluntary school donations have risen by 50 per cent. Tertiary fees are up over 40 per cent and student debt has topped $16 billion.

Labour will: 

  • Invest an extra $6b over four years to deliver a modern education system 
  • This funding includes $1.8b to deliver more teachers, better professional development, more learning resources, and help the sector meet the rising costs they face each year. 

In addition to this, Labour will invest in initiatives to improve the quality of education and make it more accessible and affordable. These include:

Early Childhood Education 

  • Reinstate extra funding for ECE centres that employ 100 per cent qualified and registered teachers
  • Require all ECE centres to employ at least 80 per cent qualified teachers by the end of our first term
  • Actively support establishing new public early childhood centres in areas of low-provision through targeted establishment grants. 


  • Ensure that schooling is genuinely free by offering an extra $150 per student to state and state integrated schools that don’t ask parents for donations 
  • Establish a comprehensive plan to ensure that all school students have access to mobile digital devices
  • Abolish National Standards
  • Rebuild out-dated and worn out school buildings so that every school has modern classrooms by 2030. 
  • To increase the number of people pursuing trades qualifications and employment, Labour will Offer a $2,000 Prime Minister’s Vocational Excellence Award for the top Year 12 or 13 student in vocational courses in each public secondary school, as selected by the school. Read more here.
  • Protect and promote our quality public education system by among other things:
    • Scrapping the use of Public Private Partnerships for the build of new schools and the re-building of existing school facilities
    • Repealing the legislation allowing for Charter Schools

Tertiary Education

  • Increasing living costs support with both a $50 a week boost to student allowances and a $50 a week lift to the maximum that can be borrowed for living costs.
  • Restoring post-graduate students’ eligibility for student allowances.
  • Restoring the eligibility of students in long courses, such as medicine, to access student allowances or loans beyond seven years FTE study.
  • Accelerating the three years' free policy, starting with one year fees free full-time equivalent for everyone starting tertiary education or training for the first time from 1 January 2018, and extending this to three years’ free by 2024.
  • Read all the details of our tertiary policy here.
  • Encourage employers to take on unemployed young people as apprentices by giving them a wage subsidy equivalent to the unemployment benefit. Read more here.
  • Reinstate funding for programmes - like night classes - that support adult learners to adapt to the changing world. 
  • Introduce a Young Entrepreneurs Policy, allowing New Zealanders aged 18 to 23 to trade in their 3-years-free and apply for up to $20,000 to start a new business based on an innovative idea. They must have been through an accelerator business training programme, which will be paid for under the policy, have a business mentor and a business plan accepted by an independent panel of business experts. Read more here.

School Leavers' Toolkit

  • Labour will create a School Leavers’ Toolkit to equip school leavers with vital life skills including:
    • learning to drive and getting a licence
    • having key workplace competencies
    • having financial literacy and budgeting skills
    • knowing their democratic rights and responsibilities 
  • Ensure every student has professional personalised career advice before leaving high school. Read more here. 
  • Read the full details of this toolkit here.

See the manifesto chapter for a full list of initiatives.

This investment will mean more teachers in front of our kids, better classrooms, and less cost for parents. More of our young people will go on to tertiary education and get the skills they need for work, with less debt. 

By investing in education, the next generation of Kiwis will be better qualified and ready to take on the rapidly changing world. They will be equipped to help build a better New Zealand. 

In total, Labour will invest an extra $6b in education over the next four years above what National has committed. This funding will come from the money saved by cancelling National’s tax cuts, which would deliver $400m a year to the top 10 per cent of earners, and the unallocated operating and capital allowances in each Budget.