The Education and Training Act 2020: Information for Boards

The Education and Training Act 2020 aims to give all learners a high-quality, culturally responsive, seamless and inclusive education, from early learning, through schooling, and into tertiary education, vocational training and employment.

What is the Education and Training Act?

The Act is the biggest rewrite of education legislation in decades. Much of its content gives effect to the Government’s plans to transform the education system, following the Kōrero Mātauranga | Education Conversation and the Tomorrow’s Schools Taskforce report.

The Act incorporates and replaces the Education Acts of 1964 and 1989, and also incorporates the Education (Pastoral Care) Amendment Act 2019, the Education (Vocational Education and Training Reform) Amendment Act 2020 and parts 7, 7A and 7B of the State Sector Act 1988.

What does the new Act mean for Boards?

The Act implements a range of changes that are intended to strengthen school governance and refocus schools on what matters most for learners and their whānau, as well as to encourage the more active involvement of students, parents, families and whānau in education decisions affecting them.

School board objectives

Section 127 of the Act provides that a board's primary objectives are to ensure that:

  • every student at the school is able to attain their highest possible standard in education achievement; and
  • the school:
    • is a physically and emotionally safe place for all students and staff; and
    • gives effect to relevant student rights; and
    • takes all reasonable steps to eliminate racism, stigma, bullying, and any other forms of discrimination within the school
  • the school is inclusive of, and caters for, students with differing needs; and
  • the school gives effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi including by:
    • working to ensure its plans, policies and local curriculum reflect local tikanga Māori, mātauranga Māori and te ao Māori,
    • taking all reasonable steps to make instruction available in tikanga Māori and te reo Māori,
    • achieving equitable outcomes for Māori students.

What’s next

The new objectives take effect from August 2020, except for the new objective for school boards to give effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The Tiriti provision commences on 1 January 2021, so that boards have time to understand and prepare for the changes they need to make to their school to give effect to the new objective.

The Government is taking practical steps to support the growth of te reo Māori capability in the education workforce through initiatives such as Te Ahu o te Reo Māori, Te Aho Ngārahu and the TeachNZ Scholarship(external link) programme.

School boards will need to work with their communities to ensure their plans, policies and local curriculum reflect local tikanga Māori, mātauranga Māori and te ao Māori. Ministry staff will be able to provide advice on how to initiate these conversations.

Supports and tools to help with this include:

Physical restraint framework

The physical restraint framework is updated in the Act (sections 99 to 101) to make it clear that teachers and authorised staff members must not physically restrain unless it is necessary to prevent imminent harm to the health, safety or wellbeing of a child or young person, or to another person, and the teacher or staff member reasonably believes there is no other option available in the circumstances. Physical contact for guiding, comforting or communicating with a student, is not restraint, if the student does not resist that contact. These kinds of unresisted contact are not restricted by the Act.

The Act includes a range of other safeguards, including that any restraint used on any child or young person must be reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances, and that staff members who are authorised to use physical restraint must be trained. The Act also maintains the ban on seclusion.

What’s next

The Ministry will update the rules and guidelines on the use of physical restraint, and the training provided to school staff.  These will give clear guidance on preventing and managing situations where restraint may be necessary to prevent imminent harm to students or school staff.

When developing the new guidelines and rules, the Ministry must consult with children and young people, particularly Māori and those with learning support needs, parents, whānau, caregivers, and organisations representing the interests of teachers, principals, governing bodies of schools, parents, and the disability community.

New draft rules and guidelines will be developed with an Advisory Group. These will then be consulted on more broadly. This process will take place over the next few months. The current Rules will apply until new Rules are finalised.

Right to attend and transitional plans to allow reduced hours of attendance

Sections 33 and 34 of the Act explicitly state the right of all enrolled students, including those with learning support needs and disabilities, to attend school during all the hours the school is open for instruction. Some students and their parents and whānau have found that schools only allow them to attend part time.

Section 42 of the Act also enables a student’s parent or full-time caregiver to request and agree with the principal and the Secretary for Education to vary a student’s hours of attendance as part of a transitional plan, where the particular needs of the student require this.

The plan must be considered by all parties involved to be in the child’s best interest. Transitional plans may be renewed once, at the request of the parent with the agreement of the principal and Secretary.

What’s next

The implementation of the Learning Support Action Plan and the Learning Support Delivery Model will help schools’ feel more confident to include all enrolled students within their teaching and learning programmes and to help parents. 

The Ministry will provide guidance for parents on how to apply for a transitional plan. The Ministry will also work with schools that are concerned about their resourcing constraints to help them to meet their obligations.

New complaint and disputes resolution panels

The Act enables the establishment of new local complaint and dispute panels to hear serious disputes where these cannot be resolved at the school level. Panels will be accessible, free, flexible, and membership will reflect local school communities.  The provisions are located in sections 216 to 236 of the Act.

The panels will have mediation, recommendation and decision-making functions, and will hear disputes relating to:

  • rights to education (including enrolment and attendance)
  • stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions
  • learning support, racism and other types of discrimination
  • physical and emotional safety and
  • physical restraint of a student by a teacher or other authorised employee.

What’s next

The date for establishing panels has not yet been set. The panels will be established by regulations, which will also provide additional detail about panel processes and procedures. The Ministry will consult publicly as these regulations are developed. The Ministry will also prepare material, such as guidance and communications material, to provide additional information to principals, boards, students and their whānau.

School enrolment schemes

Under the Act, the Ministry of Education will take over the development of, and consultation on, enrolment schemes. The Ministry will administer each school’s enrolment scheme from a regional perspective, based on community and network need.  The relevant provisions can be found at sections 71 to 75 and in Schedule 20 of the new Act.

The Ministry will be required to consult schools boards when developing a proposed enrolment scheme and must take all reasonable steps to consult the relevant school community and affected parties in the wider local community on the proposed enrolment scheme.

The Act allows for the Secretary for Education to have discretion to authorise a grandparenting clause to be included in an enrolment scheme when a scheme is implemented or amended, if they are satisfied it is in the school and local community’s best interest to do so and can be managed within the existing school network.

A grandparenting clause enables siblings of current students to retain the right to enrol at the same school when the new enrolment scheme is introduced or amended, as long as other criteria are met. For example, in the case of an amended scheme, at the time of enrolment the student must live inside the home zone as it was before it was amended.

What’s next

Revised Secretary’s Guidelines and Instructions for Enrolment Schemes will be produced before December 2020. Until 1 January 2021, enrolment schemes are to be developed and operated under the current guidance and legislation. 

About enrolment schemes

Regional Ministry staff will continue to work with boards to develop and amend enrolment schemes, and will engage with them about any consultation processes planned for after 1 January 2021.

New powers for the Secretary for Education

The Secretary for Education has new powers to act when a state of emergency or transition period is declared or an epidemic notice is in place. These powers can be found in sections 653 to 658 and include directing governing authorities of education entities to close and open for physical attendance or instruction, placing restrictions on attendance, and directing that education or instruction be provided in specified ways, such as distance learning.

School rules consultation

Boards must consult their students (where appropriate), staff and school community when making school rules (section 126 of the new Act). This will help to ensure that a school’s rules are appropriate for, and supported by, their community.

What’s next

The Ministry of Education will develop guidance to help boards determine what will require consultation and what consultation should look like.

Board Code of Conduct

Section 166 of the Act provides that the Minister of Education can issue a mandatory national code of conduct for Board members at State and State-integrated schools. The Code of Conduct will set minimum standards of behaviour and bring boards into line with other education sector governing bodies.

What's next

Guidance will be developed for the sector on ways the Code of Conduct can support Board operations and the process for addressing breaches of the Code. The Ministry will consult on a draft Code of Conduct before it is released.

Religious instruction to become opt-in

The Act (section 58) provides that if the board of a State primary or intermediate school chooses to close their school for religious instruction to take place, then the principal  must have written permission from students’ parents that they may attend  and ensure that the other, pre-existing, conditions are met.

Previously, parents and caregivers needed to write to the principal if they did not wish their child to attend religious instruction. This change ensures that children are only attending religious instruction with their parent or caregiver’s written consent.

What’s next

The Ministry’s guidelines for primary and intermediate schools on religious instruction are being updated to reflect the change to opt-in instruction.

The guidelines show boards how to allow religious instruction in a way that better complies with our education and human rights laws, as well as how to protect the rights of diverse students, their families and whānau, to be free from discrimination based on their religious or non-religious belief.

School principal appointment criteria

The Act requires (in section 617) that the Minister of Education (or delegated authority) set minimum eligibility criteria for appointment as a school principal, in State and State-integrated schools. The criteria are to be designed in consultation with children, young people and their parents, whānau and communities, and with a range of relevant national bodies.  The new criteria will assist in ensuring consistency in the skills, competencies, knowledge and expertise of principals.  School boards will still be responsible for appointing principals.

The criteria will be implemented as ‘appointment’ criteria that only apply to those seeking appointment to a principal or tumuaki role after the eligibility criteria come in to force. Principals and tumuaki who are already employed and remain in their role will not be required to demonstrate they meet the criteria.

What’s next

The criteria will be issued following consultation as set out in the Act.

 

 

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