Labour is committed to reducing inequalities in education and making the right training opportunities available as the country recovers from COVID-19.
“Our vision is for New Zealand to be the best place in the world to be a child, and a world class education system is a vital part of that,” education spokesperson Chris Hipkins said.
“COVID-19 has exposed and magnified the existing inequities in our system. Our plan for education builds on the gains we have made in our first term in Government to improve the wellbeing and lift the achievement levels of all students.
“We have put in place initiatives to make schooling more affordable, school buildings more modern and give parents the assurance our schools are preparing our kids for the challenges ahead.
“We have a proud record of funding increases in education to meet cost pressures and we are committed to boosting spending if re-elected to maintain a strong education system as we rebuild from COVID-19.
“Labour recognises that one of the most important assets in education is our teachers. In the first two years of our term in Government, we gave teachers record pay rises as a way of recognising the lack of adequate adjustments over the previous decade and the significant role they play in the lives of children and young people. We also increased the number of teachers in the country by 2,000.
“We are now committed to continuing to close the pay gap between teachers working in early childhood education and care centres and kindergartens.
“If re-elected, Labour will ensure all 17,000 teachers working in education and care centres are paid what they deserve.
“A significant pay gap has built up over time. The previous National Government stopped the practice of passing on increased kindergarten funding rates that met the cost of pay settlements to education and care services, as had been done previously.
“The lowest paid education and care teachers have already received a pay boost to bring them in line with kindergarten teachers’ pay from 1 July this year.
“We will also scrap the blunt and outdated decile system and replace it with the Equity Index for schools (from 2022) and early learning services.
“The Equity Index increases the resources going to some of our most disadvantaged students and communities. It will assess the level of disadvantage in a school or early learning service by considering the whole student population.
“We want every child no matter who they are or where they come from to have the opportunity to fulfil their potential and live life to the fullest. This is a huge step towards addressing the inequities in our public education system.
“Once it’s fully implemented the new funding system is expected to involve additional funding of $75m per year, across schooling and early learning. But it’s important that there’s also a transition period where the shift to the Equity Index is managed carefully.
“The Free and Healthy Lunches in School programme which has already been rolled out to more than 8,000 students will continue to be expanded to around 200,000 students in 2021, targeting the students in schools with the highest disadvantage.
“In tertiary education, Labour will retain the first year of the fees-free programme, but not extend the programme into additional fees-free years. We will be targeting our additional tertiary education spending in areas that are critical for the country’s economic recovery in the post-COVID environment. Initiatives such as free apprenticeships and targeted areas of vocational training will be prioritised, supported by the reform of the Vocational Education System which we will be completing if re-elected.
“As the country rebuilds and more people are looking to retrain, it’s now more important than ever that we have a vocational education system that’s responsive to the needs of industry and learners.
“The new initiatives we’re committing to at this election is budgeted at $1.7b including $600m for early childhood education and care teachers’ pay parity,” Chris Hipkins said.