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PoliticsOctober 5, 2020

Election 2020: The early education and schools policies in two minutes

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Voting is under way in the New Zealand general election. Explore the main parties’ pledges at, but here’s a whistlestop tour of what’s on offer in the world of education.

Read more two-minute policy wraps here

Education accounts for the third-biggest portion of government spending, so it’s crucial parties have clear directives for this sector. Early childhood education providers and schools are constantly battling for more from the government as teachers care for the 1.1m children under 18 in Aotearoa.


The National party says it will increase funding for learning support and increase funding for teacher aides. It also wants to fund school infrastructure, with $4.8b over the next decade towards accommodating class growth and zoning requirements, and the Fix New Zealand’s Schools Alliance.

In terms of early childhood education (ECE) – National wants to “work with providers to ensure the ECE system is fair, simple and transparent,” by lifting minimum pay requirements for some ECE staff and simplifying the ECE funding system.

Labour’s policies include closing the pay gap between teachers working in ECE, care centres and kindergartens. It also wants a $20m fund established to support the four remaining Māori boarding schools in New Zealand.

The Green Party wants to fund stronger arts and cultural programmes in schools and increase funding to te reo Māori bilingual and immersion classrooms and teachers.

Act wants to fund education through payments to individual bank accounts for each student, to account for the diversity in student’s learning needs.


Establishing a national curriculum centre is on the list for the Labour Party, who say it will provide “curriculum leadership and expertise”. It also wants to integrate te reo Māori into ECE and schools by 2025, as a continuation of a 2019 policy.

The party has also campaigned strongly on their history in schools policy, which would require all schools and kura to teach New Zealand history by 2022. It wants a greater focus on wellbeing, identity, language and culture in the curriculum, and has budgeted $10m for renewal of curriculum and NCEA.

National wants to require second language education offerings at primary and intermediate level, and require that secondary schools teach financial capability.

Similar to Labour’s policy on wellbeing education, National wants schools to teach mental health skills. National also wants to continue to support New Zealand history education, but unlike Labour’s New Zealand history policy, it would not be a compulsory topic in schools.

The Green Party wants to establish a new outdoor education programme, teach New Zealand’s Pasifika history, make te reo Māori a core curriculum subject up to year 10 and add ecological sustainability and civics education to the curriculum.

Much like the Greens, the Māori Party has a policy to make te reo Māori a core subject to year 10. The Opportunities Party takes it further with a policy to make te reo Māori compulsory in all schools. The New Conservatives have a policy opposing compulsory te reo Māori.

Infrastructure and resources

Labour plans to continue with their long-term growth plan, building new schools and classrooms for 100,000 students. Alongside this, it wants to ensure classroom facilities and schools are fit for purpose, benefiting around 180 schools over the next 10 years – including the replacement of coal heaters in schools with clean energy alternatives.

It also wants to expand the free school lunches programme to cover 200,000 children in 2021 and targeted at schools with the highest levels of disadvantage.

The National Party also has a policy regarding the Food in Schools programme – they would like a reform due to concerns about high costs and practical issues for the participating schools. National wants to develop a 30-year plan for school infrastructure, so the government can more easily keep up with population growth. This plan would be reviewed and updated annually, and funded 10 years at a time.

New Zealand First wants to build on the recent pilot delivering greater access of counsellors to secondary school students and develop further screening tools, funding and resourcing models to provide adequate care for children with learning difficulties.

Training and support

As far as teacher and staff training goes, the Labour Party policy on school board training hopes to strengthen school governance and provide greater Māori involvement in school governance with specialised, and potentially mandatory training. The party also wants to create a national leadership centre advisor network for schools, a more visible support system for school leaders, and continue cultural competency programmes for the education workforce.

National’s education policies have a focus on STEM subjects this election, and they want to ensure teachers are equipped to teach these with professional development for literacy, numeracy and STEM subjects. It also wants to expand the Teach First NZ programme, allowing selected postgraduate students to begin teaching while finishing their qualification. Alongside this, National would increase entry requirements for new teacher training, improve teacher training programmes, and train more principals.

The Greens would like to reform teacher registration rules that penalise teachers who were qualified in the Pacific, to support Pāsefika teachers in New Zealand, and Act wants to reduce the size and role of the Ministry of Education, to free up more funds for children’s education.

The Māori Party has a policy that would require all schools to have Māori in their senior leadership teams, as part of their commitment to honouring the Treaty of Waitangi.

The rest

Labour, National and New Zealand First want to replace the decile system, with Labour and National wanting school funding with an equity index taking into account the whole student population instead.

Both the Green Party and the National Party have policies about reducing class sizes in primary schools to reduce teacher workload and lift student achievement, and National and NZ FIrst have a similar policy for ECEs.

The National Party, Act, and New Conservatives have policies about reintroducing charter schools, though they differ by party. National wants to establish 25 charter schools by 2023, funded on the same per-child basis as state schools. Act wants to allow state schools to transition into charter schools, and New Conservative is broadly pro-charter schools.

Explore the parties’ pledges in more depth at Policy. The essential campaign dates are hereFor all you need to know about the cannabis referendum click here. For the assisted dying referendum click here

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Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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