The National Party would introduce standardised assessment for reading, writing and maths for those in years three to eight if elected to Government in October.
National leader Christopher Luxon made the announcement today at Silverstream School in Upper Hutt.
It's part of a wider education policy announcement, which would also require primary and intermediate schools to teach an hour of reading, an hour of writing and an hour of maths, on average, every day.
It would also rewrite the curriculum to state what must be taught at each year level in reading, writing, maths and science from Year 3 to Year 8 - roughly between the ages of 7 and 13.
The fourth prong of the policy aimed to ensure teachers and their trainees spent "more time learning how to teach the basics" according to a party statement.
Luxon said the policy meant a National government would ensure every child got a world-class education, so when they left school they could lead the life they want.
“Education has the power to change lives. It allows children to gain the skills and knowledge they need for further education and to go on and lead successful lives.
“Since coming to politics, the systemic failure in New Zealand’s education system is what has shocked me more than anything else."
He said two-thirds of secondary school students failed to meet minimum standards in reading, writing and maths, and 98% of decile one year 10 students failed a basic writing test.
“This is utterly unacceptable."
He said National would set a target of 80% of year eight students being at or above the expected curriculum level for their age in reading, writing, maths and science by 2030, and aim to return New Zealand students to the top 10 in the world in maths, reading and science by 2033.
The latter is measured by the OECD's PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) rankings.
Luxon said children were going backwards in education under Labour, and only 45% of year eight kids were at the level they should be in maths. He said 35% were at curriculum level in writing.
“This just cannot continue. We won’t lift education achievement in New Zealand by continuing to do the same things that are taking us backwards. National wants every child to have the chance to lead the life they want, and education is a key part of that."
He said the announcement was the first part of National's overall education policy and there would be more announced before the election, which is on October 14.
Booksmart: National's 'Teaching the Basics Brilliantly' policy
- Require all primary and intermediate schools to teach an hour of reading, an hour of writing and an hour of maths, on average, every day.
- Re-write the curriculum so it says what must be taught each year in reading, writing, maths and science to every year group in primary and intermediate schools.
- Require standardised, robust assessment of student progress in reading, writing and maths at least twice a year every year from years three to eight, with clear reporting to parents.
- Ensure that teachers and teacher trainees spend more time learning how to teach the basics. More classroom tools and lesson plans to help them teach reading, writing, maths and science.
Greens give policy an F, Labour asks Nats for an 'f' for funding
Green Party education spokesperson Teanau Tuiono gave the police an F.
“Our education system should give our tamariki the best possible start on a journey that happens inside and outside the classroom. National clearly has homework to do, as its policy fails to address the real drivers of outcomes and attendance,” Green Party education spokesperson Teanau Tuiono said.
“National is once again over simplifying a problem for political gain. It’s not only the school system that affects a child’s education, but also housing, income, and health.
“Luxon’s persistent lack of understanding of complex issues and inability to do his homework is why all we get from National is soundbites and simplistic solutions that won’t work. Chris Luxon seems more interested in turning our kid’s futures into political football rather than doing what works.
“Evidence has been clear for years that the main issue with educational outcomes is underlying inequality, especially kids who bounce around between schools because they haven’t got secure housing."
Education Minister Jan Tinetti said National would add another disruption into the school system after those experienced through the pandemic.
“National’s education policy lacks the very thing teachers, parents and students need after a tough couple of years, certainty and stability.
“There was also a word missing from Luxon’s speech – funding. National haven’t said how much their changes will cost, how they will resource them and what their commitments to teachers’ pay is.
“National’s track record on education is one of serious underinvestment. Run down schools and classrooms and stagnant teachers’ pay which has resulted in teacher shortages and a demoralised workforce."
She said "forcing" children to do an hour each of reading, writing and maths each day wouldn't make them enjoy it or learn better, and "intensive testing" wouldn't make school a place kids wanted to be.
She said national standards were a "failed experiment" and National wanted to "revive this zombie of the past".
National standards in reading, writing and mathematics for primary-aged students were introduced by the John Key-led National Government in 2008 and were scrapped by the Labour Government in 2017.
Tinetti said Labour had upgraded "nearly every school in the country", improved teachers' pay and introduced programmes that helped parents and made kids want to attend school.
Teachers' union responds
NZ Educational Institute (NZEI) which represents more than 46,000 teachers, says teachers and children need an increase in funding and staffing to support learners with higher needs.
President Mark Potter said the curriculum was "not the problem".
“The last thing we want is to see is it being designed by politicians."
He said every teacher and parent knew "the basics" were different from one child to the next, and National's policy would mean children as young as seven would "face two high-stakes tests a year".
Potter said that was an "even more intensive form of national standards".
“Children need more support in the classroom, not more tests. ”
“Curriculum changes should be evidence-based and designed by experts in the field. No curriculum in the world can magic away the under resourcing of an education system.”
He said Luxon was correct that the education sector needed an immediate and long-term strategy that "brings all learners into the fold and gives them good education outcomes".