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National promises to bring back partnership schools, scrap first year fees-free tertiary model


The National Party says it will scrap the first year fees-free tertiary education scheme for a new model, bring back partnership schools and reduce class sizes.

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Simon Bridges shared the his party’s views with TVNZ1’s Breakfast. Source: Breakfast

The party's education discussion document was released today, outlining ideas and proposals if it were to govern. 

Fees free scheme

National’s tertiary education spokesperson Shane Reti called the fees-free policy an "expensive failure" - proposing a range of options to replace it - one tweak being to switch the free-fees year to the last year of students' courses, or shifting the funding to student loan write-offs or additional living costs. 

Another option it proposed was to replace fees-free with a new "Education Saver system", mixing together savings from parent, child, Crown and business contributions. 

The party is also looking to lift student loan repayment thresholds and change repayment rates.

Polytechnics

Education Minister Chris Hipkins unveiled proposals in February, with a possible plan to bring all of New Zealand's polytechnics and technology institutes under a unified banner.

Mr Hipkins said the new entity would incorporate all of the country's 16 Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs).

National promised to return decision making to the ITPs, saying "rather than undermining the expertise of the regions, we should be building confidence and trust in them to deliver".

Classes

National want to drop the teacher to student ratio in schools, reducing to 1:25 from 1:29 for Year 4,5 and 6. 

Year 2 and 3 would reduce from 1:23 to 1:20. 

"We’re committed to smaller class sizes in primary schools and more teachers," leader Simon Bridges said.

"More time with a teacher means more opportunities for children to ask questions and get answers, and for teachers to focus on areas where a child may be struggling."

Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye said National would increase the teacher workforce to account for the lower ratios through means such as financial incentives. 

"We are also considering changes to initial teacher training which include strengthening practicum requirements, accredited schools involved in teacher training and more support for teachers who mentor beginning teachers."

National also promised teams in secondary schools and early learning centres with professionals such as GPs, nurses and guidance counsellors to help children with complex needs. 

"We know it takes a huge toll on families when they have inadequate support for a child that has additional learning, behavioural and mental health needs," Ms Kaye said. 

Early childhood centres

National is looking at bringing in "unannounced spot-checks" to ensure ECEs meet standards.

"Where ECE services are found to be breaking the rules, National proposes that they be put on notice and parents informed," ECE spokesperson Nicola Willis said. 

Second language

National promises children aged Year 1 to 8 could learn another language, with 10 priority languages set out by the Government, including Te Reo Māori and New Zealand Sign Language.

Partnership schools

National promised to bring back the partnership school model, creating 25-30 partnership schools by 2023.

The discussion document comes after the Government announced yesterday a major education overhaul to governance, management and administration of schools.