New Zealand Labour Party

Labour's Education Manifesto


High quality public education provides all New Zealanders with the opportunity to achieve their full potential and lead happy and fulfilling lives. That’s why the Labour Party has always been a champion for quality, free public education.

It was the first Labour government that introduced free universal provision of secondary schooling, and the most recent Labour government that introduced a free entitlement to early childhood education. We have always believed in the power of education to change lives and we’ve always believed it is one of the most important investments any government can make.

These are challenging times

As the way we live and work continues to change rapidly, so too do the demands we place on our education system. However too often creativity and innovation is being hampered by government red tape and compliance requirements.

Increasingly teachers and educationalists tell us that they’re spending so much time testing and filling in forms to satisfy bureaucratic accountability requirements that they don’t have enough time to do what they’re actually there to do – teach.

Relentless changes to legislation and regulation, the importation of failed approaches from the US and the UK, lack of funding, and a lack of collaboration between those who set policy and those who are expected to implement it are all distracting attention from what really matters.

We need a different kind of education

Our education system needs to prepare our people for a world we can’t yet imagine. We will need to be resilient, creative, and adaptable, have great communication and interpersonal skills, and be prepared to work collaboratively as well as independently.

Far from having a ‘job for life’ we can expect to chop and change careers on a regular basis. We will probably undertake a range of different types of work, some salaried, some contracted, some in a workplace, some from home.

Subject specific knowledge will be a lot less important, transferable skills will be essential. Attitude and aptitude will be just as important, if not more important, than qualifications.

The current focus on standardisation and measurement works against adapting the education system to the needs of the modern world. Those policies seek to refine a system that was well suited to the last century, but simply won’t cut it in the future.

It’s time for a fresh approach

Our focus has to be on a much more personalised learning experience, one that brings out the best in each and every individual. No two people are built exactly the same so we should stop forcing the education system to treat them as if they are.

We need to rebuild an educational environment that is characterised by high levels of trust, ongoing opportunities for professionals working within the system to engage in professional development and access the kind of support they need to thrive, and a much closer connection between the education system and the other social services that impact on citizens' ability to participate in it.

Labour’s way forward

Education_graphic.pngThe Labour Party will continue to champion a free public education system that provides all New Zealanders with lifelong learning opportunities so that they can reach their full potential.

Our work will be organised around five main priorities:

Learners at the Centre: Placing learners at the centre of the education system with a much greater focus on personalised learning, strong foundations and lifelong learning, the recognition and celebration of diversity, and a focus on learning environments that are culturally and socially responsive

Barrier Free Access: Breaking down the barriers to participation at all levels, with a particular focus on breaking down financial barriers by returning to the principle of a free public education that is available to all New Zealanders throughout their lives

Quality Teaching: Championing quality teaching and the importance of a respected and supported teaching profession at all levels of the system

Quality Public Education: Investing in and backing our world-class, public education system

21st Century Learning: Focusing on learning that is relevant to the lives that New Zealanders are living today, the technology they will interact with, and the types of skills that will provide them with the opportunities to thrive in all aspects of their lives.

Learners at the Centre

Education in the 21st century looks quite different to the way it did when many of us went through the system. Yet the current National government are focused on promoting the ‘factory model’ that is no longer fit for purpose and won’t equip New Zealanders with the types of skills and dispositions they will need to thrive in the modern economy and society.

Strong Foundations: Supporting children by supporting parents

Throughout childhood, parents are often our greatest teachers. Yet increasingly many parents are struggling to balance their parenting with their commitments to paid employment. Labour wants to ensure that parents have more choices.

  • Labour will extend the minimum entitlement to paid parental leave to 26 weeks (6 months)
  • Labour will boost support for parent-led early childhood services such as Playcentre and Kohanga Reo, including funding to increase participation
  • Labour will investigate creating a smoother pathway from parent teacher qualifications (eg, Playcentre qualifications) to initial teacher education programmes
  • Labour will undertake a review of home-based early childhood education, including investigating the introduction of minimum qualification levels for all home-based educators

Quality early childhood education

Children who participate in quality early childhood education enjoy the benefits throughout the rest of their lives. They do better at school, in tertiary education, and when they enter the workforce. Investment in children is one of the most important investments any government can make. Labour is committed to providing all children with the best possible start in life.

  • Labour will reinstate funding for centres that employ 100% qualified and registered teachers in early childhood education, require all early childhood services to employ at least 80% qualified teachers by the end of our first term in government, and continue to aim for 100% qualified teachers in all early childhood education centres
  • Labour will work with parents, teachers, and stakeholders to develop a second version of Nga Huarahi Arataki – Pathways to the Future, a 10 year strategic plan for early childhood education
  • Labour will actively support the establishment of new public early childhood centres in areas of low-provision through targeted establishment grants, and only provide taxpayer subsidies for new early childhood centres if there is an established need in the proposed location
  • Labour will develop a network of high quality centre-based early intervention programmes addressing the needs of vulnerable children in the most deprived areas
  • Labour will work to improve group size and teacher:child ratios for infants and toddlers 

Celebrating diversity and recognising difference

Every one of us is different. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and we learn in different ways. Some people learn best through seeing things, others through hearing, and others through experiences. Our education system needs to cater for all of these things. The current ‘standardised’ framework for government education policy is acting as a straightjacket that prevents our education institutions from realising the potential in every learner.

  • Labour will work with the sector to trial giving schools the option of implementing Te Whāriki in the first two years of schooling to enhance the transition from early childhood education to schooling
  • Labour will abolish national standards and work with experts and stakeholders to develop a new system that better acknowledges child progress and focuses on the key competencies
  • Labour will undertake a review of the current NCEA related assessment load on students and teachers with a view to bringing the focus back to delivering on the vision of our internationally renowned curriculum
  • Labour will scrap the current approach of measuring the success of schools by the number of students achieving national standards or NCEA, and will work with teachers, principals, parents, tertiary institutions and the Education Review Office (ERO) to develop more effective ways of evaluating the performance of schools
  • Labour will continue to champion the value of a broad education, moving away from the current government’s emphasis on post-qualification earnings as the sole marker of educational value.

Lifelong Learning: Opportunity through education

The days when someone could walk out the school gate and into a job for life are long gone. In the modern economy and society most people can expect to dip in and out of the education system throughout their working lives. For most young New Zealanders, a school education is no longer enough. A major priority for Labour will be ensuring all New Zealanders have the opportunity to retrain and re-educate themselves throughout their lives.

  • Labour will progressively introduce an entitlement to 3 years of free-post school education or training for New Zealanders to use throughout their lives as they see fit
  • Labour will designate funding for night classes and other adult learning opportunities
  • Labour will fund programmes that support senior citizens to adapt to changing technology and engage fully in society such as SeniorNet
  • Labour will ensure that support is provided for community based programmes for people to learn an array of languages
  • Labour will review the current inequities between the financial support offered to those who seek to retrain or re-educate after they find themselves unable to find work and those receiving a Job Seeker benefit
  • Labour will change funding systems to encourage the development of ‘hop on, hop-off’ training to equalise the focus that is placed on completing a qualification and gaining work experience.

An inclusive education system

We believe that all citizens have the right to be included in the education system and to receive the individual support they require to succeed. We will focus on identifying what support each child needs to achieve to their own unique potential and then build that support around them on a personalised basis.

  • Labour will comprehensively review the entire system of learning support so that resources are allocated based on individual needs assessment for each child, rather than each child having to meet the criteria imposed by the system
  • Labour will make it much easier for schools and parents to request a learning needs assessment for any child that may need additional learning support
  • Labour will progressively increase the level of funding provided for early intervention in early childhood education to better support those with identified additional needs
  • Labour will progressively increase the level of financial support available to those with additional learning needs, with a long-term goal of uncapping ORRs and the Intensive Wraparound Service
  • Labour will ensure that all teachers and support staff receive training and professional development and information on inclusive education and disability awareness to ensure the active participation and learning of all children
  • Labour will ensure that the role of the Special Education Coordinator (SENCO) in each school is properly recognised, resourced, and supported
  • Labour will require the Education Review Office to report on the use of the Special Education Grant in each school and report annually on the adequacy of learning support provision relative to need
  • Labour will ensure the continued provision of special residential schools for the students with the highest needs
  • Labour will review funding to physical and occupation therapy in schools
  • Labour will ensure that sufficient speech and language therapists are funded, recruited and retained so that all students who need that additional support have access to it as required throughout their schooling
  • Labour will work to ensure that all Deaf students have access to New Zealand Sign Language at school, and ensure that teachers have access to professional development to gain proficiency in sign language
  • Labour will ensure that assistive technology is funded by the Ministry of Education where it is not possible for schools to do so
  • Labour will promote the implementation of ‘Kia Orite:  Achieving Equality:  the New Zealand Code of Practice for an Inclusive Tertiary Education’
  • Labour will establish an independent disputes resolution tribunal to hear appeals against decisions taken by schools and early childhood services
  • Labour will remove the cap on public sector employees so that the Ministry of Education can employ the specialists they need to support children’s learning.

Real action so we have safe schools for our young people

No young person should be subject to verbal and physical abuse, and made to feel inferior, especially in schools. Labour will take action to eradicate discrimination, violence and bullying, and to combat suicide and self-harm.

  • Labour will ensure that schools are fully supported in dealing with behavioural issues by increasing the number of social workers available to all levels of the education sector, ensuring all schools have an effective anti-bullying programme and providing external multi-agency support for schools in cases of criminal activity, such as assault
  • Labour will review the funding system for guidance counsellors in schools, including investigating the possibility of ring-fencing that funding so that it can only be used to fund guidance counsellors, and consider how additional counselling services can be offered to primary and intermediate school students
  • Labour will support schools to develop comprehensive policies and actions to deal with bullying on the grounds of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and intersex status, implement the Ministry of Education’s Sexuality Education Guidelines and ensure intensive intervention and adequate levels of support for Rainbow youth in the compulsory education system.

Supporting Maori educational achievement

Our education system must recognise the place of Maori as Tangata Whenua and provide opportunities for Maori to succeed and thrive. Throughout the system, Maori culture and identity should be respected and celebrated.

  • Labour will fund dedicated professional development programmes that have proven success in raising educational achievement for Maori students such as Te Kotahitanga
  • Labour will ensure that all early childhood and primary school teachers are provided with an opportunity to undertake lessons in Te Reo Maori
  • Labour will provide dedicated scholarships to increase the number of Te Reo Maori teachers and ensure that Te Reo Maori is available as an option in all secondary schools
  • Labour will relaunch Ka Hikitia – Accelerating Success with professional development to support its implementation
  • Labour will pilot the establishment of traditional Wananga Maori to provide an opportunity for Maori to succeed as Maori through traditional learning that is steeped in karakia, whakapapa, whaikorero, history and esoteric knowledge that was once usual practice
  • Labour will investigate the establishment of a unique Wananga Tohu Matauranga qualification at secondary school level to better reflect increasing opportunities for Maori to succeed
    as Maori.

Supporting Pacific educational achievement

Labour is committed to ensuring every child receives the best education possible. We recognise that Pacific students have often experienced more barriers to participation in education and have too often been over-represented at the lowest end of achievement. Our education system needs to support every Pacific learner to succeed in life as well as to achieve their full potential.

  • Labour will support and lift the quality of ECE provision of services with a focus initially on providers who predominantly enrol Pacific children
  • Labour will ensure a dedicated professional development programme is developed and implemented for ECE staff who predominantly serve Pacific kids
  • Labour will establish an inter-generational family learning policy in partnership with churches, schools, non-government organisations and Pacific providers
  • Labour will re-establish support for Pacific languages including reinstating funding for the Tupu series
  • Labour will establish a Pacific education for life initiative in communities with high Pacific populations. This will be centered on learners and their families and bring together local communities, education providers, key government agencies, industries, employers and NGOs to ensure seamless transitions and education for life opportunities
  • Labour will review the level of funding and support provided to schools that offer bi-lingual teaching in Pacific languages.

Supporting gifted and talented learners

Our education system needs to support every child to achieve to their full potential. Just as we need to provide additional support to children who are struggling, we also need to provide additional resources to extend some of our most able learners so that they can learn and grow.

  • Labour will re-establish the Gifted Advisory Board to identify and share evidence based effective practices. The board will be supported by a dedicated team within the Ministry of Education and will also be allocated a budget to commission research.
  • Labour will re-establish a ring-fenced fund to specifically support programmes for gifted learners outside their regular classroom environment (eg. One-day programmes).
  • Labour will establish from within existing baselines a ring-fenced fund for professional development programmes aimed at supporting gifted learners.

Barrier Free Access

Ensuring that every New Zealander has access to a quality lifelong learning has always been one of Labour's highest priorities. It was the first Labour government that ensured that every New Zealander had the chance to attend a free secondary school, and it was the most recent Labour government that introduced universal access to free early childhood education.

Putting the “free” back into free education

Increasingly costs are acting as a barrier to participation in education. Fees for early childhood education services have been rising rapidly, parents are being asked to pay for more and more of the cost of their kids’ education, and those undertaking post-school study are taking on record levels of debt. Labour has always believed that access to free education is the best way to ensure that every New Zealander has a fair shot at success.

  • Labour will put the “free” back into the policy of 20 hours free early childhood education for all three and four year olds, and those five-year-olds who aren’t yet in school
  • Labour will provide all State and State Integrated schools that opt-in an additional $150 per student per year in exchange for their agreement not to ask for parental donations
  • Labour will progressively introduce 3 years of free post-school education, allowing access to university, polytechnic or on-job training for young New Zealanders and those who have not studied before

Breaking down other financial barriers

The Education Act guarantees all children a free school education, yet that principle is being increasingly eroded through increasing user-charges, material fees, course costs, and covert fundraising by schools who are desperate for funding. No child should have their access to quality education rationed based on their parents' ability to pay.

  • Labour will strictly enforce guidelines that prevent schools charging for any aspect of curriculum delivery and ensure they are funded properly so they don’t need to do so
  • Labour will introduce new guidelines to prevent schools covertly fundraising, for example through the sale of compulsory school uniforms at a profit to the school.

Supporting participation in higher education

No New Zealander should be prevented from participating in higher education because of the cost, yet increasingly access to financial support is being removed.

  • 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.

Increasing support for those who need it most

Financial barriers currently serve to reinforce inequality within our society. Younger New Zealanders from families who have no formal tertiary qualifications are far less likely to participate in post-school education than those that do. Maori and Pasifika student participation and achievement is lower than for other students.

  • Labour will investigate the introduction of ‘First in Family’ scholarships to help those from families with no prior achievement in higher education to participate
  • Labour will work with iwi to increase the range of financial support available to Maori students undertaking education at all levels.

Reducing the burden of student loans

Current generations of students are completing their studies with record levels of debt. Such high levels of debt are preventing young New Zealanders from buying their own homes, forcing them to delay starting their own families, and penalising those on low incomes through harsh repayment thresholds. Labour wants to reduce the burden of student loans.

  • Labour will investigate voluntary bonding arrangements whereby graduates can have some or all of their loan written-off in exchange for work in the public sector or in areas of critical skill shortage, particularly in teaching and nursing
  • Labour will investigate greater incentives to support those currently living overseas who have fallen into default on their student loan payments to restart their repayments.

Supporting adult education and training

As the nature of work, the economy, and our society continues to change rapidly, the number of New Zealanders that need to return to education throughout their working lives will increase. Current income support policy supports a speedy return to work, rather than providing the opportunity for mature learners to re-educate so that they can find better and more rewarding work and participate more fully in the community.

  • Labour will review the discrepancies between the financial support provided to those on the Job Seeker allowance and those who are returning to formal education and training
  • Labour will ensure that 3 years of free post-school education is available to adult learners who have not participated in formal post-school education in the past.

Quality Teaching

All the research is clear, the quality of teaching has the biggest in-school influence on student achievement. Labour is absolutely committed to a high-status, high-trust teaching profession. We want to attract the very best teachers, provide them with ongoing development opportunities throughout their careers, ensure they are well paid and respected, and receive all the support that they need to thrive in their roles.

A highly valued, highly trusted teaching profession

We want teaching to be one of the most highly valued, sought after careers there is. We recognise the role government has to play in setting high expectations of our teachers and then giving them the freedom and autonomy they deserve to get on with the job. Throughout their careers we want teachers to feel valued, supported, and have opportunities to continually grow in their jobs.

  • Labour will increase the status of teaching and demonstrated trust for the profession through the introduction of a democratic process for electing the Board of the Education Council
  • Labour will ensure that over time all teachers have access to study awards as part of their career pathway
  • Labour will continue to work with sector unions to develop and strengthen career pathways for teachers at all levels, including further leadership pathways for teachers who want to stay in the classroom doing the job they love
  • Labour will re-direct resources spent forcing “National Standards” on schools into teacher professional development programmes that assist students who are struggling
  • Labour will work with the early childhood sector to continually improve the working conditions for teachers, including ensuring they have professional release time and a career progression framework
  • Labour will work with the secondary teaching profession to assess how subject-specific professional networks can be revitalised and better supported.

Giving teachers time for excellence

Our education system faces significant change in coming years, and with that the practice of our existing teachers will need to change too. Teachers need to be given as much support as possible to update and develop their own skills and knowledge, but that takes time, a commodity that is often in very short supply in our busy schools and early childhood centres.

  • Labour will review the time allocation for teachers to engage in professional development and negotiate with unions through collective processes to increase the level of support provided to teachers engaging in their own learning and development
  • Labour will establish a joint taskforce with the teaching profession to reduce the amount of compliance-focused paperwork teachers are required to complete so that they can return their focus to what really matters – teaching and learning.

Raising the standard of entry into teaching

Teaching is one of our most valued and respected professions. We want to ensure that our best and brightest choose a career in teaching so that every student has a fantastic teacher.

  • Labour will raise the standard of entry into the teaching profession by requiring the Education Council to establish and maintain a vigorous process for pre-screening entry into all initial teacher education programmes
  • Labour will smooth the transition between initial teacher education and the classroom or service by investigating ‘guaranteed placement’ for all graduates for at least the first two years of their teaching careers
  • Labour will extend the mandate of the Education Review Office to include initial teacher education providers.

Ensuring adequacy of teacher supply

As increasing numbers of teachers approach retirement age, we face the very real prospect of a critical teacher shortage unless urgent action is taken to avoid it.

  • Labour will implement a comprehensive teacher supply programme to ensure that we have enough teachers to meet future demand
  • Labour will increase the availability of bonded scholarships in areas of identified teaching shortages, including science, maths, Te Reo Māori and in specific locations
  • Labour will immediately instigate a review of teacher supply policy relating to Auckland in consultation with those in the profession
  • Labour will fund a dedicated, positive public relations programme to promote teaching as a profession to school leavers and university graduates
  • Labour will immediately cease the sale of school houses and review the way maintenance of existing school houses is funded

Support for returning teachers

Teacher registration is an important process that ensures all those in classrooms are competent to teach and have current, relevant experience. However the push to strengthen teacher registration requirements has the potential to force many dedicated part-timers out of the profession and act as a barrier to those who wish to return after a period of absence.

  • Labour will provide free Teacher Education Refresher (TER) courses for teachers returning to teaching or whose registration has otherwise lapsed, including those returning from maternity or parental leave.

Strengthening teacher leadership and collaboration

We get the best results for our students when teachers and schools and early childhood services work together, share best practice, and exchange ideas. We have some of the most dynamic, creative teachers in the world, and we want to make sure they have the opportunity to share what they know and continue to further their own professional development.

  • Labour will establish a comprehensive education advisory service to share best-practice and act as mentors and advisors to teachers throughout New Zealand. The new advisory service will:
    • Oversee all centrally funded teacher professional development spending, and provide advice, where appropriate, to schools and early childhood services on their own internal professional development programmes
    • Have the power to second excellent teachers and educational leaders for a period of up to 3 years to act as mentors and trainers
    • Labour will establish a College of Educational Leadership that will operate as part of the education advisory service. The new College will:
      • Establish minimum qualifications required of those applying for leadership positions
      • Ensure that quality professional development programmes are available for all new and existing educational leaders
      • Have the power to second existing educational leaders into the College for a period of up to 2 years to act as mentors and trainers

Quality public education

To deliver on our goals, we will need a robust, quality public education system. We need to turn the tide away from the privatised, profit-focused system the current government is driving us towards. We need to recognise that higher levels of education have a public and societal benefit as well as a private benefit for the individuals concerned.

Quality public education

We believe in a quality, comprehensive, public education system, not the corporatised, privatised system that the current government is driving us towards. Taxpayer funding for education should be directed towards learning and teaching, not creating profit-making opportunities for private businesses.

  • Labour will protect and promote our quality public education system by:
  • 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
  • Freezing taxpayer subsidies for private schools at 2016 levels and scrapping the Aspire scholarships for private school students
  • Reviewing the funding system for integrated schools to ensure that education at integrated schools is genuinely made more widely available to all prospective students and fees are not used as a barrier to attendance
  • Directing subsidies for the establishment of new early childhood education centres to the community based-sector
  • Scrapping the National government’s plan to change tertiary education legislation so that private profit-making providers receive the same funding as public institutions.

Education at the heart of local communities

Labour also recognises that schools and early childhood centres are the heart of local communities. Increasingly they’re being asked to offer an ever greater level of support to their students and the communities they are drawn from.

  • Labour will recognise and support the role of schools as community hubs by:
  • Working with local councils to better coordinate provision of public services and facilities such as libraries, swimming pools, recreational facilities and community halls
  • Actively encouraging the co-location of other social services on school sites, including health services and programmes that support parents
  • Encourage greater co-location of schools and early childhood centres
  • Making better use of school facilities by re-instating funding to adult and community education programmes
  • Encouraging greater collaboration between secondary schools and tertiary education providers, particularly in areas where tertiary education provision is limited.

Modern schools for modern learning

Every student has a right to a positive learning environment. Too many of our schools and early childhood centres are struggling to cope with outdated facilities. Over the next few decades, upgrading schools and early childhood centres will be a major challenge.

  • Labour will develop a comprehensive plan for re-building out-dated and worn-out school buildings, so that every school has access to modern learning environments by 2030
  • Labour will empower schools so that they have more say in designing major building projects to best meet the needs of their students and communities and so that they align with their approach to teaching and learning
  • Labour will work with schools and community-based early childhood education centres to ensure that their capital funding is sufficient to allow them to rebuild outdated facilities and expand to meet growing demand

Support for school support staff

Labour recognises the vital role that support staff play in schools. We also recognise the financial pressures that schools face and that this has often led to support staff not receiving the level of remuneration they are rightly entitled to.

  • Labour will address these issues by working with the sector to:
  • Develop a centrally-funded system for the salaries of school support staff
  • Work towards the implementation of a Living Wage for all school support staff, over time as funding permits
  • Ensure that schools are adequately resourced to meet any increased costs arising out of collective agreement settlements for support staff who aren’t centrally funded
  • Continue to develop and strengthen Support Staff career framework

Supporting school boards of trustees

School boards of trustees play a vital role in supporting their school, its leadership, and its teachers. We will continue to provide a wide range of support to school boards, and we will provide an extra hand to those schools who sometimes struggle to find people with the right skills to serve as their trustees.

  • Labour will establish a “Helping Hands for Schools” programme to match volunteers with governance skills to schools struggling to fill skill gaps on their boards of trustees
  • Labour will also review the use of Commissioners and Limited Statutory Managers with a view to establishing a new system that is more positive and constructive and that doesn’t put schools under ever greater financial pressure.

A diversified tertiary education sector

New Zealand needs a diversified, differentiated tertiary education system. The Tertiary Education Commission was created to achieve a more collaborative and strategic tertiary education system, but it has failed to realise that vision. There is a strong feeling in the sector that the Tertiary Education Commission is not operating as it was envisaged by Labour when it was established in 2003. In many ways, it has become a bureaucratic box-ticking exercise that is not adding value.

  • Labour will review the structure and operations of the Tertiary Education Commission, in order to determine how to realise its founding vision as a strategic body, operating across all post-school learning, and focused on fostering collaboration, access, relevance and excellence
  • Labour will develop a more collaborative approach to tertiary education in New Zealand by reviewing and re-invigorating the network of provision approach to funding, and direct funding through fully developed, consulted and negotiated investment plans for each tertiary education organisation and within each sub-sector of tertiary education
  • Labour will support the development of regional tertiary education strategies that will include a particular focus on ensuring that regional labour market needs, research and development and social and community needs are being met by tertiary institutions. 

World class universities

Each of our universities already plays a key role in driving innovation. We will support the integration of the skills and knowledge within our universities into our business, government and community sectors at the regional, national and international level.

  • Labour will undertake a full review of the Performance Based Research Fund
  • Labour will support research in universities, including through:
  • a continued commitment to Centres of Research Excellence
  • ensuring the sustainability of the Marsden Fund and other research funds
  • supporting the career pathways of graduates, to encourage our researchers to develop their careers and contribute to New Zealand
  • Labour will encourage closer association between business and university commercialisation centres to ensure ‘discoveries’ within the universities are most effectively brought to market and have the best chance for success
  • Labour will maintain a university system that offers broad-based programmes, including acknowledging the importance of humanities
  • Labour will reaffirm the important role of students in institutional decision-making, including on governing councils and academic boards and committees, and the vital role of students associations as advocates, representatives, and champions of student culture.

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.

Industry Training Organisations

Labour has always been a champion for on-the-job learning and the next Labour government will be no different. We recognise the vital role ITOs play in providing skills leadership for their industries, facilitating on-job learning, and ensuring foundation level education is provided to adult learners.

  • Labour will reinforce the roles of ITOs as standard setting bodies for their respective industries, and promote partnerships between industry and tertiary providers to deliver fit for purpose and responsive education to people of all ages and stages of their careers
  • Labour will seek to involve ITOs to a much greater extent in the provision of careers advice and guidance to prospective school leavers so they are exposed to information about a much greater range of employment and training options
  • Labour will remove the cap on ITO training above Level 5 of the Qualifications Framework
  • Labour will work to incentivise pathways between provider-based and work-based education, such as by not punishing providers' performance indicators when their students gain employment - especially when this articulates into industry training or apprenticeships.

International Education

International students bring a richness to our education system that benefits everyone. However huge growth in recent years has led to some pretty variable outcomes, concerns about quality of provision, and risks around pastoral care and possible exploitation.

  • Labour will shift the focus on international education away from revenue generation and towards quality education
  • Labour will ensure that schools and tertiary education institution funding for domestic students is set at a level so that they aren’t reliant on extra revenue from international students just to make ends meet
  • Labour will review the pathway from international student visas to work and residency to ensure that low quality education isn’t used primarily as a backdoor way to gain residency.

Achieving change together

To achieve the kind of change we will need if our education system is going to evolve to truly meet the needs of the 21st century, we are going to need to work together. Labour is committed to working in partnership with teachers, parents, educators and all those with an interest in education to deliver on our shared commitment to a quality public education for all young New Zealanders. We will do this by working together to agree shared priorities for future investment.

  • Labour will convene an ‘Education Summit’ to identify future challenges and map out a shared vision that all those involved with the education system can support and champion
  • Labour will seek to include all political parties in the discussion on the National Education and Learning priorities and, where possible, seek to reach consensus so that the resulting statement can endure over time
  • Labour will establish an independent taskforce to review 25 years of Tomorrow’s Schools, informed by a designated cross-sector advisory panel
  • Labour will start the review of school and early childhood funding from the beginning, doing it properly, ensuring that equity is a component of a well-funded system and will involve the profession from the beginning
  • Labour will collaborate with those working in schools and early childhood centres to re-develop the Communities of Learning model so that it less focused on a low-trust, managerial, audit culture and is instead genuinely collaborative, embraces the needs of local communities, and empowers educationalists
  • Labour will re-establish the Tertiary Tripartite Forum with institutions, staff and government representatives to address issues of effectiveness and sustainability in universities, ITPs and wānanga.

21st Century Learning: Education that is relevant

As our economy and society changes, what we demand from our education system is that it changes too. Subject specific knowledge will be a lot less important, transferable skills will be essential. Attitude and aptitude will be just as important, if not more important, than qualifications. Our education system needs to embrace qualities like resilience, adaptability, teamwork, strong interpersonal skills and problem solving ability.

A focus on competencies

Education is about more than learning to read and write. It is about providing all New Zealanders with the opportunity to develop their potential, and discover potential they didn’t know they had. We need to bring out the best in everybody. The New Zealand curriculum recognises that in the modern world, competencies are just as important, if not more important, than particular pieces of knowledge.

  • Labour will abolish national standards to return the focus to a broad and varied curriculum with the key competencies at the heart
  • Labour will ensure that the education system embraces and fosters essential skills and competencies such as attitude, communication, commitment, teamwork, willingness to learn, motivation, self-management, resilience and problem-solving.

School Leavers' Toolkit

Our teachers and schools do a great job of teaching our children core knowledge and learning skills. New Zealand’s education system is one of the best in the world. 

But students and teachers have become overloaded with assessment and the accumulation of credits, often meaning our kids miss out on important life skills. We need to be scaling back the excessive emphasis on constantly assessing students and scaling up our commitment to practical life skills.

The Future of Work Commission identified the need to do better in giving young people the practical skills that they need, in the workplace, in their day to day lives, and as members of the community. Businesses say they need young workers with these skills.

Our children need to come out of school with practical knowledge and skills that allow them to take their place in the adult world. Some schools, iwi, and community groups provide this kind of education alongside the core curriculum, but the approach is ad hoc and varies across the country. Labour will ensure it is available for all students.

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 

In Auckland, 70 per cent of entry-level jobs require a driver’s licence. In low-income areas, getting a licence can be an expensive barrier to getting into work. With Labour, every student will be offered five hours of professional driving lessons, a defensive driving course, and free testing for their learners’ and restricted licence, before they leave school. A recent pilot programme conducted by Massey University at Central Hawke’s Bay High School was highly successful.

Workplace competency courses teach the practical community, teamwork, self-management and other skills a person needs in a job. The COMET Youth Employability Programme is an example of the workplace competencies education that helps young people gain practical skills employers are looking for. These courses consist of community service and work experience, as well as taught lessons. We’ll ensure all students have access to such courses as well as developing in-school programmes co-ordinated as part of our career advice policy.

This will include ensuring young people have more opportunities whilst at school to gain practical, certifiable skills that will lead to further training or employment, including but not limited to first aid, heavy machinery licences, marine licences, pest control licences, hospitality certifications, security qualifications, and other relevant vocational certificates.

Financial decisions can have a huge effect on people’s lives – mistakes made when young can hang over people for years to come. Wise use of money can dramatically improve people’s quality of life and ability to support their family. Financial capability is part of the curriculum that is sometimes integrated into other subjects, yet, it is not regularly taught as a dedicated subject in schools. Financial literacy and budgeting courses will be available in all secondary schools so kids can learn about things like tenancy agreements, credit cards, and KiwiSaver.

The decline in voting rates among young people is concerning for the future of New Zealand’s democracy. Only 62 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds voted in the last general election. For young Māori, the voting rate was only 55 per cent. Civics courses equip young people with knowledge of how government and society functions, and the role they can play in shaping it. Labour will ensure these courses are taught in all secondary schools, including by working with the Electoral Commission, and ensure that all students participate.

The School Leavers’ Toolkit will complement the core curriculum, not detract from it. Many schools already successfully fit these kinds of courses alongside, or as part of, core subjects. The cost will be up to $50m a year.

Labour will also professionalise careers advice and integrate it into learning. Every high school will have trained, skilled careers advice teaching staff. This will cost $30m a year. Every student will develop a personalised career plan. 

Funding for these programmes will come from the $4b in additional funding that Labour has committed to the education sector.

Transforming careers advice

Too often careers advice is seen as an “add-on” to a student’s learning experience, rather than an integral part of it. Too often it is also an add-on to the workload of an already overstretched teacher. Good careers advice isn’t just about guiding young people to potential jobs and careers. Started early, it expands their educational horizons and ensures they don’t narrow down their options too soon. Careers advice and educational pathway planning need to be interwoven with curriculum delivery if we are to ensure that every young New Zealander gets the best possible chance to achieve to their full potential.

  • Labour will ensure every student has a personalised career and learning development plan from their first year at secondary school, professionalising careers advice and integrating it into learning
  • Labour will ensure that every high school has highly trained, skilled, careers advice teachers who are properly funded through ring-fenced funding to do their jobs
  • Labour will continue to develop partnerships between schools, businesses and training providers to provide young people with hands on experience in schools encouraging flexible approaches like the Gateway and STAR programmes. 

Tackling skill shortages

To lift our economic performance and remain internationally competitive, we have to commit to minimising skills shortages across all sectors in New Zealand. We have emerging issues with growing skills gaps across a number of industries. Skilled immigration is being used to compensate for our failure to train our own local workforce for the jobs that are available.

  • Labour will work in partnership with sector stakeholders and some of New Zealand’s biggest companies to establish a New Zealand Skills Strategy covering areas such as workplace literacy and numeracy, skills matching, and global Labour supply
  • Labour will restore skills leadership roles to industry training organisations and reinstate the Skills Leadership Group to capture data about skills gaps, needs and projections; develop training and oversee delivery to ensure the needs of our economy are met
  • Labour will change funding systems to encourage the development of ‘hop on, hop-off’ training to equalise the focus that is placed on completing a qualification and gaining work experience
  • Labour will encourage employers to take on unemployed young people as apprentices by giving them a wage subsidy equivalent to the unemployment benefit.

Making the best use of technology

Digital literacy is vitally important to our modern lives. The use of digital technology has the potential to dramatically change the education system, but it also has the potential to be a huge distraction. ICT use needs to be driven by learning needs and not the other way around. To get the most out of its potential, we need to ensure that educational leaders are provided with quality professional development.

  • Labour will ensure that all teachers are provided with the opportunity to improve their own digital literacy and make the most of technology in their teaching.

Access to technology for all

Increasingly schools are turning to technology to assist student learning, but not all families can provide their children with access to the latest mobile device. No student should be disadvantaged in their education by their parent’s inability to pay. Labour will ensure that every student has access to the best technology and the opportunity to acquire the skills they will need to thrive.

  • Labour will establish a comprehensive programme to ensure that every student in every school has access to a mobile device such as an iPad, tablet or laptop.