A briefing to the incoming Education Minister

Caretaker Education Minister Nikki Kaye (left), Labour education spokesperson Chris Hipkins and NZ First education spokesperson Tracey Martin. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

Soon the new Government will be announced and incoming Ministers will begin receiving their briefings (BIMS). Shane Cowlishaw does the work for the bureaucrats and writes a BIM for whoever is the next Education Minister.

Dear Minister,

Congratulations on your appointment. This briefing is to aid you in your role as the Minister of Education. Depending on your political colour, you will have different priorities and decisions. It is not a detailed analysis.

Teaching numbers

There has been increasing media coverage about a perceived teacher shortage across the country, particularly in Auckland and in curriculum areas including maths, science, and Te Reo.

While it can be confirmed there has been a tightening of the labour market for teachers, Ministry figures show the overall number of teachers with a practising certificate has increased from 90,000 in 2007 to 101,000 in 2017 (growth of 10 percent, although New Zealand’s population increased by 14 percent during the same period). Pay-roll data also shows retention rates are high, at over 92 percent nationally.

Teacher unions have placed the blame for any shortage on two reasons, a high workload and stagnant remuneration.

They believe that in order to attract younger people to the profession these two areas need to be addressed so teaching can be viewed as a long-term career option.

Bargaining with the PPTA is scheduled to begin next year.

Recently a teacher bonus scheme already in place for low-decile schools was extended to all schools in the Auckland region.

As the new Minister you may like to consider whether to introduce extra bonded grants for teachers outside of Auckland or in certain subject areas.

National standards

Since 2010 the progress of pupils in their first eight years of school has been measured through National Standards. Focused on the “three R’s” – reading, writing, and arithmetic – they compare student achievement to a set level.

If this briefing is being read by a National Minister, you will likely wish to proceed with the revamp of the programme announced before the election.

“National Standards Plus” will involve the design of an online system at a cost of $45 million that will track children’s progress throughout the year.

It will be accessible by both teachers and parents and will benefit teachers by reducing the amount of paperwork.

If a Labour Minister has received this briefing, you have indicated you prefer to scrap the National Standards system.

Assuming this is still the case, you will need to decide what system will replace the status quo and whether you will also review the NCEA high-school assessment system.


The current decile system ranks schools from one to 10 and takes into account the socioeconomic background of communities. About three percent of operational funding is allocated this way.

The previous Education Minister announced the decile system would be replaced by 2019 or 2020 with an anonymous “risk index”.

This was to remove a tendency for some parents to not send their children to a local school because of a low decile ranking.

The anonymised index will likely consider factors including beneficiary status, ethnicity, and income but the criteria has not been finalised.

Teacher unions have been broadly supportive of the move, but have raised questions about how the new system will be implemented.

If you decide to continue down this route, work will continue on the final criteria for the new model.

Social investment

The previous Government placed great emphasis on the social investment approach and the use of data.

Work has been ongoing to improve the quality of data on childrens’ progress and achievement and to ensure the education system has the information they need to make the right decisions.

Our integrated education data programme (iED) is focused on bringing together the wealth of rich data to enable evidence-based decision making and will support Communities of Learning.

A decision will need to be made if you wish to continue with this and whether funding will continue to be allocated for its development.

The Future of Education

Your coalition partner New Zealand First has been vocal about the desire for a nationwide conversation about the purpose of education. The goal would be to to consult the public and stakeholders to establish an agreed description of what success looks like for students and then develop a 30-year plan for the industry that is free from changes in government and ministers.

Considering you will be working with New Zealand First, you may wish to consider if you agree with this approach and if so how you would like the Ministry to proceed.