H&P Times Column - Education a focus as school year begins

During last year’s election campaign National made it clear that we would make improving educational outcomes a priority in Government.

Pass rates have been falling for three consecutive years now, meaning fewer children learning what they need to tackle the challenges of our world.

Just a decade ago, New Zealand’s education system was world class, and we regularly ranked near the top in the world; even today, our top performing students are globally some of the best.

But too many Kiwi kids at the other end are getting left behind. That is why some of our first actions in Government were measures to try and turn our education system around.

Our policy to enforce the teaching of maths, reading, and writing for at least an hour each and every day will help kids learn the basics to the level required.

And our focus on attendance rates will keep more kids at school when they’re supposed to be, as they simply can’t learn when they aren’t present in the classroom.

Less than half of all students attended regularly in Term 3 last year, a trend we have to buck if we want to improve education rates.

We are also going to ban cell phones in schools from Term 2 onwards, a measure many schools have already implemented as they know that taking away these distractions helps students focus on their learning.

And just last week, Education Minister Erica Stanford announced the Government’s prioritisation of the new NCEA Level 1 standards rollout.

The previous Government implemented these new standards without providing key components like subject learning outcomes or external assessment exemplars to teachers, things that would not have been provided until May.

By then, a significant chunk of the year’s teaching would have been completed, meaning less time for teachers to get up to speed and ensure their students were learning what they need.

Following our Government’s direction, NZQA has already released the exemplars for the science standards, with all other subjects caught up by the end of March, much earlier than the previous May deadline.

And the new learning outcomes created in collaboration with sector experts are already available for all subjects, providing more certainty for students, their parents and their teachers.

These new standards and exemplars will improve educational outcomes for students at NCEA Level 1 and are an important first step in our plan to ensure our kids have the tools they need after leaving school.

I have always been vocal about my belief that education is the key to every problem in our society.

A good education can lift families out of poverty and provide opportunities for growth and success they would not otherwise have access to.

To continue with the status quo that has clearly failed our children is simply unacceptable and I am proud to be part of a Government that cares about lifting educational achievement.