The reforms announced today by Education Minister Chris Hipkins represents the biggest changes in the way schools are run since the introduction of the Tomorrow’s Schools system in 1989.

As part of the changes, schools will no longer decide who they enrol at their school.

Enrolment zones and schemes were previously organised and managed by school boards, before being approved of by the ministry, but from now on enrolment zones and schemes will be managed by new local Education Service Agency offices.

Hipkins said while the current system had its strengths, it wasn’t adequately serving certain segments of the community, in particular Māori, Pacific, people with disabilities, people with learning needs, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“The 1989 Tomorrow’s Schools reform introduced one of world’s most devolved schooling systems where each school operates largely in isolation of each other,” Hipkins said.

“It empowered local communities and modernised an overly bureaucratic system, but also led over time to uneven outcomes between schools."

Hipkins said the inequity of the system was reflected in a 2018 UNICEF report which ranked New Zealand 33rd out of 38 developed countries for overall educational equality.

“That has meant young people in some areas have missed out, and it’s been particularly challenging for Māori, Pacific peoples, and people with disabilities and additional learning needs.”

The reforms come after a major review of the Tomorrow’s School system which included more than 200 meetings with educators and an Independent Taskforce.

The changes announced are expected to be phased in gradually over the next few years.

“The changes we are setting out today acknowledge that the way schools are led and supported continues to work well in many cases,” Hipkins said.

“This is not about more centralised decision-making or smothering schools that already perform well. It’s about making pragmatic and workable improvements that we believe can gain broad support.”

The Government’s decision has been welcomed by a number of leading education unions.

“The taskforce has done an excellent job of consulting the sector and wider school communities and the Government has followed this up with recommendations the sector will see themselves in,” PPTA principal Jack Boyle said in a press release.

“We support an education system that truly puts children at its centre. That’s the way it should be - it means that decisions and changes are clear, sensible and come back to the student every time.

“These changes and recommendations will take years to thoroughly embed and teachers will be key to the success of their implementation.”

Boyle said the PPTA has long supported certainty around zoning so that every child can attend their local school.

“A core emphasis of the Ministry of Education will be to support schools to support kids through local centres of excellence and a focus on new teachers,” he said.

“We want every child to leave school equipped with the skills, confidence, values and knowledge that will allow them to make the most of every opportunity.

"We believe that less competition between schools, local expertise and advice and a high trust model will combine to improve the learning experience for every child.”

Chair of the Secondary Principals’ Council James Morris said it was pleasing to see a nationally based curriculum developed.

“It’s great to have these decisions at last.

"The next step, of course, is implementation and we are very aware that for a quality roll out, the voices of teachers will be crucial.

“The initiatives to strengthen leadership will strengthen education as a whole and improve outcomes for children.

"Schools have been asking for this for some time.”

NZEI Te Riu Roa president Lynda Stuart said it was great to see that the Treaty of Waitangi and the rights of the child were underpinning the changes.

“What we've seen today provides hope, and focuses on greater support for school leaders and teachers to meet the needs of our students, while still empowering local Boards of Trustees,” she said.

As part of the Government's reforms to the Tomorrow's Schools system, boards of trustees will:
• Have more support and guidance
• Have the responsibility for property issues simplified or transferred to the Ministry
• Have any training and support needs identified for improvement      
• Have four equal objectives: the physical and emotional safety of students, inclusiveness, giving practical effect to the Treaty – through specific measures, and achieving the highest educational standard
• Follow a code of conduct (mandatory training for boards will also be considered), and  
• Enrolment zone decisions will be made locally or regionally, not by each school. 

The Education Service Agency (ESA) will:
• Have a strong local presence, with new decision-making and funding powers
• Have a strong and flexible support culture; will include new services and a focus on reducing bureaucracy and compliance
• Be part of a redesigned Ministry of Education, which will provide central expertise and services, including new curriculum and leadership services. 

Principals will:
• Have access to a new leadership centre and support from new local leadership advisors
• Have minimum principal eligibility requirements
• Be given stronger incentives to lead underperforming or isolated schools.

Parents and learners will:
• Know their local school will have stronger structural and education support
• Have access to free local complaints and dispute resolution panels for serious disputes with a school
• Have their wellbeing, identity, culture, and language recognised as a priority alongside achievement,
• Have a stronger voice in how school rules are set.

For more information on the Government’s reforms, visit here.