Presuming the kids sitting this exam are year 11, this stock photo could soon be out of date. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Bulletin: Major changes proposed for high school assessment

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Major changes recommended to NCEA system, new poll has bad news for almost everyone, and two significant announcements will be made today.

Huge changes have been recommended to the NCEA system by a review, reports Stuff. In particular, the changes would significantly lower the burden on students doing level one (year 11, or 5th form under the old terminology) External exams (the ones at the end of the year) would also be removed from that level. Education minister Chris Hipkins discussed the recommendations on TVNZ’s Q +A.

Educators are thrilled by the potential changes, reports Newshub, because it will mean an “actual focus on learning,” rather than simply the accumulation of credits. It would also ease the workload somewhat on teachers, particularly around paperwork, something that minister Hipkins is focusing on to make teaching a more attractive profession, the NZ Herald reported earlier in the month. The reforms are being welcomed by the union, reports Newstalk ZB.

The other interesting aspect of the review is that it has recommended more direction for students towards the workplace. That has been flagged in the past too, and Hipkins said “we have still got an alarming number of young New Zealanders who leave school and go on to do nothing. They don’t go into any form of education, training or employment beyond school.” He also says employers are concerned kids coming out of school don’t have the right skills.


Unless your name is Jacinda Ardern, the latest Newshub Reid Research poll is full of bad news for pretty much everyone. NZ First, who admittedly do tend to slip in polling between elections, are way below the 5% threshold. The Greens are down slightly and hovering just above 5%. ACT haven’t moved (off effectively zero) and National leader Simon Bridges still has weak preferred PM ratings, despite his party polling highest.

Newshub’s story focused in particular on Bridges, noting that he has been on a tour around the country’s various RSAs and town halls recently (for a report on one of them, I went to his Helensville stop) The Newshub story also extremely pointedly included a short quote from Judith Collins, smiling broadly while saying she has no interest in rolling anyone. She’s just below 4% in the poll, reports Stuff.

For the government as a whole, the poll would mean Labour and the Greens would easily have the numbers. But given NZ First leader Winston Peters is about to have a six week stint as Prime Minister, their low party vote, and his relatively low personal preferred PM share, might be some cause for alarm. Of course, as with all polls taken two years out from an election, take the results with a grain of salt.


Two major announcements will be made today: The first concerns the government’s response to mycoplasma bovis, and whether the strategy will be one of containment or eradication, reports Radio NZ. And the second will come from the Nurses Union, on whether they will go ahead with strikes later this year, reports Stuff. (UPDATE: Radio NZ tweeted at 7.03 that the strikes will go ahead.)


Calls have been made at a US congressional hearing for NZ to be kicked out of the Five Eyes alliance, reports the NZ Herald. It’s because of claims that major political donations are made to the Labour party are made by people with strong connections to China’s Communist Party – allegations that Labour’s general secretary has dismissed, saying the party always followed the law on donations.

National have also been caught up in the testimony, with suggestions that any information given to former PM Bill English, would also be given to list MP Jian Yang, who used to teach at a school that trained Chinese spies. Mr English spoke to Politik, saying the allegation was “completely wrong.”

The tension behind all of this: It clearly shows that some in the US are concerned about who will be on their side if it comes to conflict with China. Both former President Obama’s ‘pivot to Asia’ security strategy, and current President Trump’s attempt to start a trade war, have not been well received by China. New Zealand is in a delicate position between the two superpowers, and diplomats will be working hard to avoid offending either of them.


Migration levels continue to fall, with more recent arrivals choosing to leave again due to tougher rules, reports the NZ Herald. Annual net migration is down 4800, after previously being at record highs.


Dame Susan Devoy, the squash player turned Race Relations Commissioner, has broken her silence about ongoing problems at the Human Rights Commission, in an exclusive guest essay for The Spinoff. She calls on those who failed staff in relation to sexual harassment allegations to do the right thing and step aside. Reporting and context around the piece, to catch you up on the toxic culture at the HRC, is provided here.


Ireland’s referendum to liberalise their abortion laws is being noted in New Zealand, reports Radio NZ. Justice minister Andrew Little said while NZ and Ireland’s circumstances are different, it shows attitudes to abortion are changing. In February he asked the law commission to look at ways to take abortion out of the Crimes Act. (UPDATE: National leader Simon Bridges told Breakfast on TVNZ he does not support taking abortion out of the Crimes Act.)


Negotiations over the operational independence of Māori wardens have been delayed by the change of government, reports Māori TV. The wardens want more autonomy, and are currently managed by government department Te Puni Kōkiri.


From our partners, Vector’s Bridget McDonald has looked at the government’s deep dig into the energy sector. What will the review look at, why should there even be one, and does it mean you might pay less for power?


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Right now on The Spinoff: Dr Michelle Dickenson, an actual scientist, has gone toe to toe with loudmouthed tech–bro Elon Musk on twitter, and sets out one of the many ways he’s wrong. Duncan Greive has put together a comprehensive history covering the past, present and future of Sky TV. And Glen Herud, the man behind ethical dairying company Happy Cow Milk, has talked about what his life has been like since his story went viral.


Well, I asked for a bit of feedback about Question Time, and the behaviour of Parliamentarians generally. And then my inbox was destroyed by the flood of responses coming back – it was still coming in early this morning. If I can summarise the majority view, it was that yes, question time is important, but no, it’s not at all a good reflection on politics and politicians.

Kate made the fair point that views of Question Time might be skewed, because the media “only reports the more childish squabbles.” Susan said she was “angry that the people  of NZ are represented by men and women who are so boorish.” Emily says Question Time was a waste of time under the last government, and nothing has changed.  And Frances and Rebecca both made the point that the real work of Parliament happens in Select Committees, which is fair.

Steph said the behaviour of question time sets a terrible example, given the significant bullying problems New Zealand has. And as for the ‘both sides do it’ argument about bad behaviour, Ruth had this to say: “Labour’s integrity is taking a big hit here and they need to take back the moral high ground. Let them change the rules, follow them, and if National doesn’t abide by them when they are in power, hit them every time with their lack of integrity.” Be the change you want to see and all that.

And what about the speaker himself? Steve reckoned Trevor Mallard “should never have been made speaker, and his bombastic attitude to all things National is unacceptable.” Susan likened the speaker to “a teacher with poor control of the classroom.” But Peter says the challenge against Mallard “was clearly preplanned,” so that “National could go running to the media.” And Juliet agreed, saying National’s “deliberate disruptions” undermined democracy. Robust stuff.

Here’s the kicker: I know this publication is read by dozens of people at Parliament – the mailing system records email domain names. The standard of behaviour at Question Time, the most high profile Parliamentary institution, simply doesn’t have to be like this. And people are clearly saying they want to see it improve. So to help our Parliamentarians out, here are some suggestions made by MPs and experts in 2015, when everyone was on the other side of the house. Something to marinate on over the long–awaited recess, at least.


In sport: The remarkable story so far of cult rugby hero Marty Banks has been told by the NZ Herald’s Dylan Cleaver. Banks, who found fame at Tasman and the Highlanders, has spent much of his career battling away in some of the weirdest and wildest frontiers of the professional game around the world – and he’s learned a lot along the way. It’s a brilliant big read.

Pole vaulter Eliza McCartney has set a new personal best at a Diamond League event in the USA, despite bashing herself up on the first two attempts, reports Stuff. McCartney bruised her elbow, and ripped the skin off her hand, before clearing 4.85m. She came second overall at the meet.

And the Wellington Firebirds have put a risky bid on Jimmy Neesham returning to his best, signing him for the upcoming cricket season, reports Stuff. All–rounder Neesham, once among the first names on the Black Caps team sheet, fell completely out of form in recent years at Otago. If he can recover that form the Firebirds will be a force, particularly in the limited overs competitions where they were off the pace last season.


That’s it for the The Bulletin. If you liked what you read, and know other people who would find it useful, please forward it on and encourage them to sign up here. Thanks for joining us this morning.


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