Education Amendment Bill (No 2) 2018

The Education Amendment Bill (No 2) was introduced on 13 September 2018. It makes a number of amendments to the Education Act 1989, Education Act 1964, and the Education (Update) Amendment Act 2017.

The Bill will protect public interest in Education Council decision-making by enabling the Minister to issue a policy direction, make student safety a registration criteria for private schools, change the rules for cohort (group) entry so children must be 5 before starting school, and repeal the start-up of communities of online learning.

Overview of key changes proposed by the Bill

Protecting the public interest in Education Council decision making

The Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand (the Council) has significant influence over the quality of teaching, and the supply and diversity of the teaching workforce.  This creates a substantial public interest in its work, which affects all New Zealanders, and children and young people in particular. For this reason, it is important that Council decisions can be aligned with the Government’s policy directions for the wider education system.

The Bill will enable the Minister to issue a direction relating to specific Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand functions. It also requires the Council to consult the Minister prior to making changes to teacher qualification requirements or registration criteria.

This complements a change proposed to the Council’s composition through the Education (Teaching Council of Aotearoa) Amendment Bill which seeks to increase the number of members on the Council’s Board from nine to 13, with 7 members elected by the profession and 6 appointed by the Minister of Education. The Teaching Council Bill also gives the Minister the power to appoint one of the appointed or elected members as chairperson.

Making student safety a registration criteria for private schools

The Bill amends the Education Act 1989 to include a new registration criterion for private schools which requires that they are a safe physical and emotional place for students. This means that, for new private schools, students’ physical and emotional safety must be considered as a criterion when the Secretary for Education assesses a private school’s application for registration.

The amendment will also mean that a private school’s registration can be cancelled in those rare cases where the Secretary has concerns about the safety of students in an existing private school. 

The new criterion will also enable the Education Review Office (ERO) to review private schools’ safety policies and procedures.

Private schools already registered will not need to reapply for registration. 

Changes to the rules for cohort (group) entry

The Education (Update) Amendment Act 2017 enabled schools to adopt and enforce a cohort entry policy starting from Term 1, 2018. These changes allowed 4 year olds to start at school.

The Bill changes the requirements for cohort entry so that children can still start school in groups, but only after they have turned 5. This is in line with the recommendation of the 2015 Advisory Group on Early Learning.

The Bill enables schools to adopt and enforce a cohort entry policy for students over 5, with 2 groups per term – students can start school on the first day of term, or at a mid-point during a term, after they have turned 5. Students could start in groups up until they turn 6, at which age school enrolment is compulsory.

Existing cohort entry policies will remain in force until 1 January 2020, or terminated earlier by the school. New policies may take effect from 1 January 2020. Following the change, these schools would need to consult with their communities again, to decide whether to adopt the new model of cohort entry or whether to return to continuous entry (where children can start school at any time between age 5 and 6).

Schools adopting cohort entry for the first time under the new settings will also need to consult with their communities. 

Repealing the start-up of communities of online learning

In 2017, the Education Act 1989 was amended to introduce a new system for distance education, communities of online learning (COOLs). This would have enabled the Minister of Education to accredit providers from the public and the private sectors to offer online tuition to full-time and part-time school students. This system was due to come into force on 31 December 2019.

The Bill repeals these provisions. This will provide time for the issues to be considered in the context of the wider education sector reviews.

Existing providers such as Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (The Correspondence School) and the Virtual Learning Networks will continue to offer distance education on the same basis as they do now.

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