Almost every aspect of a person’s adult life will be defined by the education they receive as a child. An education crisis today will turn into a crime crisis, a vulnerable children crisis, an economic crisis and an inequality crisis tomorrow.

ACT will:

  • Develop a traffic light system for unjustified absences, which will be publicly available in real-time.
  • Redirect funding from centrally controlled truancy services so schools can fund or purchase services directly.
  • Extend the B4 School Check to include education progress as well as health. ECE providers that fail to contribute to child development may risk losing their funding or license.
  • Set minimum criteria that any curriculum taught in New Zealand primary schools must follow, but allow for multiple curriculum versions.
  • Ensure all schools participate in standardised testing.
  • Develop an online league table, like Australia’s ‘My School’, to help parents understand how their school is performing compared with other schools.
  • Refuse to lower the bar for literacy and numeracy standards. ACT will conduct another set of mock exams in 2024 to gauge progress on higher literacy and numeracy standards and commit to enforcing higher standards from 2025.
  • Abolish University Entrance as a separate qualification and replace NCEA level three requirements with the current University Entrance requirements.
  • Ensure employers’ and tertiary institutions’ input is included in the development of achievement and unit standards.

ACT will stop the Ministry of Education micromanaging schools, freeing them to operate as they see fit, and instead get it focused on the basics: setting minimum criteria for the curriculum, ensuring all schools participate in standardised testing, providing better information to parents, and ensuring all children are turning up to school.

New Zealand’s education system is in freefall. Since 2009, New Zealand has been experiencing overall declines in achievement for reading, maths and science. Almost one in five year 9 students in New Zealand fails to achieve even a ‘low’ standard of mathematics.

Yet the education system makes it almost impossible for parents to track whether their kids are learning and achieving at the level they ought to be at. As a result, some students are leaving the compulsory schooling system without the basic literacy and numeracy skills needed to thrive in society. Teachers are overloaded trying to put together a coherent curriculum and interpret whether the kids in their classes are on the right track. Employers despair at how poorly prepared new workers are as those kids transition from the schooling system to the workforce.

ACT has a clear plan to building the foundations for a world-class education.

Educational disparities are starting to show from the first day kids start primary school. Some kids will start primary school not knowing how to hold a pencil. There is little information currently available on the performance of the ECE sector because the Government does not effectively measure the educational and developmental outcomes. ACT will extend the B4 School Check to include education progress as well as health. These checks will help develop an evaluation of ECE sector performance and how providers are contributing to child development. Over time, ECE providers that fail to contribute to outcomes may risk losing their funding or license.

Students are falling through the gaps because there are inadequate opportunities to check-in on student progress. Standardised testing is one of the most effective ways of measuring how individual students perform compared with others, and it provides vital information to teachers and parents. ACT would require schools to conduct standardised tests twice a year and for these results to be reported to parents. ACT would develop a platform for parents to understand how different schools contribute to student progress. The results the tests will be centrally collated to put together an online resource for parents to see how different schools compare.

Students are not consistently being taught the knowledge and skills that parents and future employers would expect. Using the curriculum as a highly politicised tool for indoctrination, or radically changing the curriculum every time there is a change in government, is unlikely to improve the quality of education. ACT will put an end to the ‘curriculum wars’ while ensuring that any curriculum taught in New Zealand schools meets the standards required to set all kids up with a set of foundational knowledge and skills. ACT would reform the Ministry of Education’s role to that of curriculum approver, rather than curriculum writer.

The Ministry of Education would be required to approve curriculums based on a set of criteria that have been designed to ensure international best-practice and some consistency between schools:

  • A science-based approach to adapting the curriculum to meet progressions in cognitive development.
  • A structured system that builds a foundation of skills and knowledge in core subjects.
  • A level of detail that would provide clear guidance to teachers about what to teach and when, and transparency for the public to follow what they can expect schools to deliver.
  • Content that is evidence-based and secular (excluding religious studies).
  • Some New Zealand schools are already adopting alternatives to the national curriculum, by offering the Cambridge curriculum at primary level. ACT’s policy simply expands the options available to schools who are wanting to offer a quality, evidence-based, local curriculum.

School attendance levels are at crisis point. This is both a symptom of a failing education system and a cause of further under-performance. ACT will require every school in New Zealand to fill out an electronic attendance register accessible by the Ministry of Education. Schools will be required to record which students have not attended school on a particular day and whether that absence was justified or unjustified. The data from the electronic register will be used to publicly report on a real-time traffic light system and will entail additional accountabilities for schools and parents.

ACT would also empower schools to deal with truancy by redirecting the money currently being spent on centrally-controlled attendance services. At the moment, contracts for attendance services are held at a national level and schools have little choice over service provider or how that service is delivered. ACT’s policy would enable schools to contract or deliver an attendance service that works best for them and their student population.

NCEA has become an increasingly meaningless qualification for both employers and tertiary institutions. It also fails to set students up for a range of options once they leave if high school. ACT would raise the literacy and numeracy standards that students need to gain and end the confusion between NCEA level three and University Entrance by aligning the standards. To ensure the NCEA curriculum and standards evolve to match changing industry needs, ACT would require NZQA to conduct an annual survey of these stakeholders to ensure the qualification is fit for purpose.

Download PDF