EDUCATION AND TRAINING BILL
CHAIRPERSON (Adrian Rurawhe): Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there any objection? There appears to be not.
Parts 1 to 6, Schedules 1 to 24, and clauses 1 and 2
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): I was very prepared to go through each of the parts as we went along and explain each of the provisions in the bill, but perhaps if I could just give a very high level overview at the beginning of this. I am very happy to engage, so, you know, questions and answers and if members wish to make speeches then, of course, they're welcome to do that as well.
This is a very substantial piece of work. It draws together all of our significant education legislation in one place for the first time in quite a long time. It repeals the 1964 Act and the 1989 Act. The vast majority of the legislation before us—it's a very thick bill, obviously, but the vast majority of it is simply tidying up the existing statute book. It is bringing all of our existing education law into a more streamlined and coherent form. The Education Act of 1989, I think has been the subject of goodness knows how many amendment bills since then. It's been amended just about every Parliament, I think, has amended it multiple times, and it has become a bit of a mess. If we want people to follow the education law of the land, it would be good to actually get it to a point where people can follow it and understand it, and this bill will certainly do that by creating a new single Education and Training Act.
The structure of the bill follows the process that someone would go through in their journey through the education system, starting in early childhood education, moving through schooling, into tertiary education and beyond. Then there are clauses that relate to the way the system is structured and administered and the central agencies that are in there and their involvement in that.
There are some significant policy changes in the bill, though. It does implement some of the recommendations that arise out of the Tomorrow's Schools taskforce report and the work that we have done around that. There are some further changes to the issues around restraint and the use of physical restraint in schools—one that I think has exercised members across the House over the last five or six years since that issue was first raised. We still haven't quite got that right yet, and the bill has another go, through the Supplementary Order Paper that I have tabled, at getting the balance of that right, because I'm not convinced that the balance of that is quite right.
There are plenty of other provisions as we go along, which I'm sure we can discuss. I do want to indicate to members, though, if they've got any questions or if they wish me to comment on any parts of the bill, I'm here for the duration and I'm very happy to do so.
NICOLA WILLIS (National): I rise to ask the Minister a few questions, and they principally relate to Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) 544, because, as you'll appreciate, this introduces new content to the bill that we didn't have the opportunity to analyse at the Education and Workforce Committee. So in this contribution I hope that Minister in the chair, the Hon Chris Hipkins, will be patient. I will ask a couple of questions, and then I'll rise to take another call in future.
The first question is in relation to the changes around school enrolment zones. Members of the House will be aware that it is this particular part of the bill that National takes particular issue with. We think the current system, whereby communities via their boards of trustees are in charge of consultation, engagement, and the initial setting of school zones, is a good one, and we are concerned and sceptical about what will happen when the Ministry of Education takes over those responsibilities. So with that in mind, it leaps out at me that this SOP pushes out the time line under which the Ministry of Education will take on that responsibility until 1 January 2021. It is described in the SOP that the intent here is "to provide adequate time to transfer responsibility … from … boards to the Ministry of Education." And, Minister, it seems to me that this must be a huge amount of responsibility that the Ministry of Education is getting ready for if it's going to take them this many months to prepare.
We had been led to believe in previous contributions by Labour members that this was just a simple administrative change. This would indicate that there is some preparation that needs to go on at the Ministry of Education that hasn't occurred while this bill has been moving through the stages in the House, and I would like some explanation of what it is that they are going to be doing over the next few months in preparation.
My second question on the SOP relates particularly to the clauses around "physical restraint", which, of course, is new language, because the bill initially talked about "physical force". I, like the Minister, have been petitioned and engaged by many parents who have real concerns about the way these provisions might have worked, particularly for children with additional needs, and equally I've heard concerns from teachers about what steps will be taken to make sure that they feel that they can operate within the law in a way that does keep other children safe and that keeps themselves safe in their workplace. I appreciate that there is a difficult balance to strike here between ensuring that no child is put at undue risk of physical discipline, and equally that teachers are able to keep children safe. So these are detailed changes, and I think it would be useful to the House if the Minister could give us more background on what consultation has led to these changes, whether affected stakeholders will be happy with these changes, and why they are better than what was in the bill that came out of select committee. Thank you.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Sure. I thank the member for her questions. In terms of the school enrolment zones, the delay to 1 January 2021 is largely a resourcing issue that the Ministry of Education have to work through. Schools do put a lot of time and energy into managing their enrolment zones and into the consultation with their communities, and the Ministry of Education need to gear up to be able to better participate and to better lead that process.
Schools aren't all of one mind on this. There are some schools that definitely want to keep control of their own enrolment zones, but there are also others who will very happily see the back of having to do that consultation process. They don't enjoy doing it. They do see it as a source of division with their parent communities, and they don't enjoy having to lead that consultation process. So, yes, I absolutely concede there is a divided body of opinion within the schooling community about who should best manage the consultation with their communities around enrolment zones. The delay, though, which I think was the member's question, is really just about making sure the ministry can get the systems in place to be able to do that work, instead of schools doing it.
With regard to "physical restraint" or "physical force", this has been one of the most difficult issues in the bill, to be frank, and it was a very difficult issue when the last Government grappled with it. I think they had a really good go at trying to get it right; didn't quite land perfectly. I don't think this is absolutely perfect either. If you like, on the continuum of views, you've got the teaching community at one end and the disability community at the other end, and I think what Parliament has been trying to do for the entirety of the time—and I don't think it's a particularly party political matter—is to find the right balance in the middle that says, "Yes, teachers need to be able to exert some control where it is required to keep everybody safe, but then there are very legitimate concerns raised by the disability community about the fact that children with disabilities are often on the receiving end of that—disproportionately so." Very real concerns have been raised about that.
So we moved away from the use of the words "physical restraint" based on the feedback from the teaching community, because of the feedback that things like, by way of illustration, a teacher hugging a child while their parent left—and anyone who's dropped their kid off to a school or an early childhood centre where the kid doesn't necessarily want to be left behind will understand that this happens every day—that teacher is restraining that child by giving them a forceful hug while their parent leaves. The teaching community read the "physical restraint" provisions as that they couldn't do that, and I don't think anybody would say that that's not something that's a legitimate thing for a teacher to do. They do it every day, and we don't want them to feel that they're being criminals when they do that. They're providing comfort to a child by giving them a good, strong hug while their parents leave. But then, on the other hand, by moving to "force", what we heard from the disability community was that they thought that that was going too far the other way.
So we've come back more to the middle ground. The teaching community preferred the word "force"; the disability community preferred the word "restraint". What we've tried to do in the middle is actually improve the consultation requirements around the guidelines, because, actually, the guidelines are where the real meat of the issue is resolved, and a better consultation process—taking some time out to do that really well and really thoroughly and get everybody on board—I think will be the key to getting this right.
The second part of it is, of course, training. It's all very well to say to the teaching community, "Here are some new rules; now you've got to follow them." Actually, if we want to do a better job around restraint and force in schools, then actually really good quality training is the answer to that. There are things around non-violent physical intervention—good training that is available in those circumstances. So we've got to do a better job of making sure that the teaching community can access those.
So this is by no means the final solution to this problem. This is going to continue to be a challenge for all of us. Whoever is in Government, there's going to continue to be concerns on both sides, and I think we're all going to have to continue to navigate our way through that.
DAN BIDOIS (National—Northcote): Thank you, Mr Chair. And thank you to the Minister in the chair, the Hon Chris Hipkins, for being available to answer our questions. I want to go now to something that I've had a lot of feedback on in my community in Northcote since I was elected just over two years ago. This issue, of course, came out actually while I was consulting them on the Tomorrow's Schools review and what they thought about it, but it's been a consistent theme whenever I've spoken to a principal or a teacher, which is the bureaucracy that they face dealing with your ministry.
Whether it's property issues, whether it's zoning, whether it's staffing matters, whether it's resource matters, the level of frustration amongst our schools dealing with your ministry is at its all-time high, I think. It's led, quite frankly, to a number of my principals leaving the sector—really good principals. Principals, if you were to rank them, would be certainly in the top quartile of leadership in New Zealand's schools.
So I guess my first question to you, Minister, is that a lot of these changes that you're proposing seem to me like they're actually strengthening the bureaucracy rather than reducing it. So the question that I have is for you to please explain to me—but also to all the principals and the teachers who feel a sense of frustration with dealing with your ministry—apart from just amalgamating several Acts into one simple Act, where does the reduced bureaucracy come from? I would appreciate it if you can address that for the sector. Thank you.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Sure, I thank the member for his comments. I think this is another one of those intractable challenges that we face in education, because when we are talking about the Ministry of Education, we're talking about the delivery arm for the Government of the day, if you like. So the Ministry of Education are always going to be focused on implementing the policies of the Government of the day, and those policies will change. And then that creates, you know, some interesting challenges for schools when the policies of the Government change and the ministry ultimately has to implement those. So the ministry does, I think, sometimes find itself the meat in the sandwich, frankly, between schools and the Government.
I think sometimes some of the criticism that's directed to them should better be directed to us, all of us collectively, actually, because we make decisions that the Ministry of Education then have to implement on our behalf. The bureaucracy issue is a challenging one. It's always been thus. I think if you go back to before Tomorrow's Schools, it was a challenge, and looking at it post - Tomorrow's Schools, it's grabbed a whole host of new challenges.
Through the COVID lockdown period, the Ministry of Education have never communicated—I think, since Tomorrow's Schools—with schools in the way that they did during that lockdown period, and the feedback that we heard from schools was incredibly positive during that time. So I've spent some time just listening to them and saying, "Well, what made the difference? What was different about the way the ministry worked with you during COVID-19 lockdown compared to what they had done before?" I think there are a few key things—one is we gave the Ministry of Education some more discretion, and that's something different that Governments don't generally tend to do to Government departments. We tend to be quite prescriptive about what they can and can't do.
So we said to the Ministry of Education, "Find out what schools need and make sure they get it during that period of time." So we gave them some more discretion at the front line, and schools really welcomed that, and I think the ministry welcomed that because it helped to strengthen their working relationship with schools. Of course, that comes with risks. But, actually, I think the Ministry of Education handled it incredibly well. The frequency of communications was really, really important. The Ministry of Education was sending out daily updates through the beginning period of that COVID-19 lockdown because the information was changing all the time. The schools just wanted one credible source of information where they knew they could trust that as being the truth, and the ministry worked very hard with public health officials to make sure they got that.
So I think the issue isn't a structural one, it's a relationship one. I think we've still got some work to do to improve the relationship between the Ministry of Education and schools, regardless of what the policies of the Government of the day are. There is some further structural change that Government is considering, and the Opposition have been involved in the discussion around that, around the establishment of an education support agency to put more of that support directly to the front lines. I mean, actually to give that frontline level a bit more discretion in the way they work with schools, so that they can be more flexible and nimble in responding to the needs of individual school communities.
Dr PARMJEET PARMAR (National): Thank you, Mr Chair. My question to the Minister in the chair, the Hon Chris Hipkins, is about the early childhood education approval process. So through this legislation, the Minister will be actually giving the approval to entities to open an early childhood education centre. This is through allowing them to apply for the licence so the approval actually will come from the Minister. So the criteria that have been set in here for a Minister to provide that approval—when I go through that list most of those things are easy to satisfy for any operator. But there is one criterion which is going to be really difficult for any operator to satisfy if that operator is a new operator and wants to enter into the early childhood education sector, and that is in clause 17(2)(d). This is the licensing history and it says "(i) any other early childhood services previously or currently owned, operated, or managed by, or otherwise connected with, the applicant; and (ii) every person involved in the governance of the proposed service."
So there could be some operators. They want to enter into the early childhood education sector. They may not have any history. They may not have operated any early childhood education centres, but they know that there is a need in the community. So I want to know from the Minister if this is intentional to rule out some kind of operators like home-based operators, because it's really important that people, those who are new in the sector, also get the opportunity to enter into the sector, because these people are in the community and they understand what the need is. They do the assessment based on what is needed in that community, and they come up with their plan of a centre, which could be for 40 children, it could be for 100, or it could be for 150 children. But if the Minister sitting here in Wellington makes a decision about that person just based on this criterion, that may not serve the community's best interest.
So I want to clarify from the Minister why we have this kind of criteria where the history is actually a very significant criterion amongst other things that are listed here and what the Minister will actually be doing to go out and look for that applicant's ability to provide in this particular sector. Thank you.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): I think that's a very fair question. The way the early childhood education licensing regime works at the moment, we've seen significant and rapid expansion of some very high-quality early childhood education providers—and no one should want that to stop. But we've also seen some expansion of providers who are not providing a high-quality early childhood education. So under the current licensing regime, if a provider has conditions placed on their licence in one service, i.e. there are quality concerns around them, there's nothing to stop them continuing to open new services, even though we know they are not a quality provider. So these provisions are designed to ensure that a service that is not a quality provider—the provisions the member's specifically referenced—can't continue to proliferate the number of services they own. On the other hand, if they are providing a quality service, that should be a factor that's taken into account in the licensing.
The final point that I would make, though, at the moment, is that there's nothing to stop the proliferation of services in areas where we don't need them—sometimes to the exclusion of growth in areas where we do need it. So we do need to have some better tools to say that it isn't just a matter of saying to someone, "Anyone can set up an early childhood education centre. I mean, as long as you make the licensing criteria, you can go forth and do it." Actually, we don't need the huge amount of proliferation we've got now. But we do want to direct the growth into the areas that are currently underserved.
Hon TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West): As soon as I heard "the honourable" I thought, "At last, I'm in." I think I might be the only one here. Ha, ha! Thank you for the call, and could I also acknowledge the Minister. I think that this new approach that we have to committee stage is working so much better, and I do acknowledge the Minister for his willingness to engage. We're having a much more useful interaction, I think. While I want to ask him a couple of questions on aspects of the bill that I'm concerned about and that, as he will know, ultimately, have led National to feel we can't support it, nevertheless I do want to put on record that there's much within the bill that we do support. It does make a lot of sense to be bringing aspects of our education infrastructure in legislation together.
I am very glad that common sense has prevailed, Minister, as far as hugs and a degree of restraint, particularly for young children. I think, almost on a daily basis, when I was five and six, I was either stubbing my toe or grazing my knee. I even remember—I was in standard 1. Now, colleagues, that's year 3, but I was in standard 1. I remember going to the front of the classroom and sharpening my pencil into a rubbish bin, standing up and cracking my head on the bottom of the blackboard ledge. Yes, I'm sorry, it was a blackboard, not a whiteboard, but I'm only 94! I cracked my head, bled all over, and the teacher, of course, gave me a great big cuddle. Then she phoned my mother and I had to get taken off to the sick bay, and my mother followed the pool of blood all the way up to the sick bay. Anyway, that is, of course, a very sensible—
Hon Chris Hipkins: So that's where it all started to go wrong.
Hon TIM MACINDOE: That's where it all started, yes. One wouldn't wish to make inappropriate remarks, but yes, Minister, that probably is where it all started.
The other thing is I want to pick up on the comment he made a moment ago about the fact that often the ministry find themselves the meat in the middle of the sandwich. I fully agree with that, not just because I am a former Associate Minister of Education. I saw the Hon Tracey Martin, who succeeded me as Associate Minister, and we have the Minister here as well. In fact, I do want to acknowledge Nicola Willis and congratulate her on taking over the role as the National Party's education spokesperson. One of things you have to look forward to, Nicola, is getting your name on a spade in Christchurch. There's a group of us who had the great privilege, as a result of all the rebuild projects and schools in Christchurch, who have our names forever etched in that spade, which goes round to all the different projects as you turn the sod.
Not only am I a former Associate Minister, I'm going to out myself—because I'm not sure if even the Minister knows this—as a former employee of the central north office of the Ministry of Education in Hamilton, and there aren't many people in the National Party who can lay claim to that. But on either side of an election defeat in 2005, I worked in the student support team there and got to see the work of many of those people who are sometimes dismissively, and, I think, unfairly described as bureaucrats who actually do a huge job for us around the country. So I do want to give them a pat on the back. I know they come in for a lot of criticism, and I know that there's often frustration about the bureaucracy within the system, but nevertheless, most of the people who are in there are in there for thoroughly good reasons and have a lot of expertise to share.
Now, let me get on to the aspects of the bill that—
Jamie Strange: Ha, ha!
Hon TIM MACINDOE: I'm not sure why my Hamilton colleague across there finds that so funny, but perhaps he thinks occasionally I digress. I'm not sure. We are, of course, concerned about the way in which this bill progressed through select committee and the fact that three of the six months allowed for it were in lockdown. Given the significance of it—it is an important measure—it is of concern to us that it didn't have what we would consider to be normal scrutiny in the select committee.
Now, my colleague Nicola Willis has already talked about the way in which the bill strips boards of trustees of their right to develop, consult, and review enrolment schemes, and I echo her concern. I was grateful to the Minister for responding to it, so I won't repeat it. Dr Parmjeet Parmar, the excellent chair of the select committee, has also talked about some of our concerns in relation to the staffing and the vetting of people who work in early childhood education centres. But, having been the shadow Attorney-General at the time that the COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill was going through the Parliament, those who are listening may remember that one of the things that particularly concerned us was about the granting of police powers of entry without warrants. Now, while I don't expect that police will be regularly going into the homes where early childhood education is taking place in home-based education, nevertheless, the fact that that even exists is a worry. I would like to think that this Government would give us an assurance that that is going to be removed very, very quickly, because for the life of me, I cannot see how that is justified now, in the post-lockdown period, when we're back at level 1, when it never would have even been contemplated before we commenced going into lockdown and up through the alert levels in March and April of this year.
The other two questions, just in the limited time I have available, are to ask the Minister to explain the minimum eligibility requirements that have been established for principals. Naturally, we want to ensure that we put really good mechanisms and support around principals, but it is a job that is increasingly demanding and difficult to staff, particularly in some of the more remote areas. Could he please just explain the thinking on that? Also, what is the case, other than within Pacific Island countries, for stopping offshore awarding of NCEA? We believe that our export education market is really important—[Time expired]
ERICA STANFORD (National—East Coast Bays): Thank you, Mr Chair. I just wanted to go back and talk about the zoning issue, and I just wanted to ask the Minister in the chair, the Hon Chris Hipkins, some further questions based on the answers that he gave to Nicola Willis' question—the first question this evening.
I note the Minister said that the extra time is for the ministry to "gear up", and I'm just keen to explore that some more. I'm interested to know what "gearing up" means—extra staff, extra resources, systems, IT systems; I'd be really keen to know what the cost of that is. I mean, bearing in mind that you have boards of trustees who give, collectively, thousands of hours of free time, and they're all very, very good people who know their communities, providing that time free of charge, I'm very interested to know what the ministry are doing to gear up, and what the cost of that is. I know that the Minister in his answer said that there are some schools that don't want to have the burden of deciding on school zones. I certainly know from my electorate—I haven't spoken to a single principal or a single board chair who would want to relinquish that task. They feel very strongly about the knowledge of their local communities and their ability to go out and listen to the community and make those decisions themselves.
So I'm really keen to know not just only about what gearing up means in terms of staff, resources, systems, and cost, I'm also very keen to know practically how this would work. I've been through it recently with Albany Primary School in my electorate, which is about to hit a thousand students, and I do note—and I'd like to put on record—that the Minister promised me a new primary school in Albany. I know they haven't purchased any land yet, but, just as an aside, I remind him that that's really important—just get that in there. But I went through that process because they were told they needed to relook at their zone, and so I went through that process with them, and all of the consultation that was undertaken, the public meetings, the feedback—I went through all that with them. I went to all the public meetings and spoke to the board chair and spoke to a lot of the angry parents and watched that process happen.
So I'm really keen to know practically now how that process will be undertaken by the mother ship, so to speak. Will there still be that same level of community consultation? Will it be lines on a map? Who will be consulted? School board chairs, local boards, for example—they know where all of the infrastructure and housing is going to go, often before the Ministry of Education in many cases I've been involved in—principals; what will that level of engagement with the local community be? Currently, we know that that level of engagement is undertaken with the community by the school board, and I'm really keen to know, will that be completely gone away from, or will there be something that replaces it by the ministry with this gearing up process, I guess.
I have very strong concerns about this, knowing the level of concern from my principals and board chairs about giving up this thing that they've been doing for a very long time and all of that knowledge that they have of their local communities. I've seen it happen where they know their communities so well, and if you draw lines on a map it looks like that would make sense, but when you understand the communities and where they live, work, play, travel, things look very different, and I'm just wanting to know how practically this will now work with the ministry taking care of it, but also to remember I would like to know about what this extra gearing up means as well. Thank you.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Thank you. I'll just run through the issues raised. But, first, in the jovial spirit in which Tim Macindoe started his contribution, a word about the Christchurch spade.
I was very excited when I became the Minister of Education to go down and do my first sod-turning in Christchurch, and I got handed the Christchurch spade and I looked at the front of it and there were all these dignitaries listed down, and all the schools where they had turned the sod, and there were all these distinguished names, and every now and then one of them would pop up a second time, and then I turned it over to the back, because they'd run out of space, and there were all these distinguished names, and then there was this big block that just said, "Tim Macindoe, Tim Macindoe, Tim Macindoe, Tim Macindoe, Tim Macindoe, Tim Macindoe" and I looked more closely at it and I discovered that it was all on the same day. He must have just gone from one school to the next school to the next school, just sort of a run in, turn the sod, and run out again, because he went through all of these schools on the same day—so I think that's cheating! Anyway, he did raise some important issues.
In terms of the minimum eligibility requirements for principals, I think what this speaks to—the bill doesn't actually define what the minimum eligibility requirements will be, it puts in place a process by which they can be developed, but I think what it does define is that the difference between a school that thrives and a school that doesn't often comes down to the way that school is led. I think we can probably all agree on that; there's very clear evidence on that, and, actually, you can have schools that are functioning brilliantly, and then after a change of leadership it can change very quickly. Similarly, in a school that's really struggling, a change of leader can change it very quickly the other way.
So it's a question of trying to remove some of the luck from that equation and say, "Actually, we've got to do a better job of supporting aspiring school leaders so that they can move on to those very important leadership roles better supported." It shouldn't just be potluck. You shouldn't just be able to take a great classroom teacher, put them into a principal role without properly supporting them to do that, because, actually, that's the way you lose your brilliant classroom teachers, because they just get overwhelmed and burnt out. This has been a persistent problem since Tomorrow's Schools was introduced. Amazing teachers just get burnt out by the overwhelming demands of being a school principal.
On the other hand, I don't think any of us would want to go back to the old point system that we had before Tomorrow's Schools where you only got a certain principal's job if you had enough points in order to qualify to get that, and school communities ended up having school principals inflicted upon them that they didn't actually want. I don't think any of us want to go back to that, so school boards will still be the people appointing their school principal, but there'll be more of a process around that to support them to make sure they get the right person. I think, by and large, the single biggest decision a school board of trustees makes is who their principal should be. They get it right, the school will go well; they get it wrong, it will be very bad for that school. So it's about getting more support around that.
With regard to NCEA offshore, you'll see that we've changed our position on this. So initially the concern was that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) would have difficulty maintaining the quality standards for NCEA if it was delivered offshore. The reality is, in the COVID period, actually we are delivering NCEA offshore to some of those international students who can't get here because of the travel restrictions. So that will be an opportunity for us all to see how that goes and to make sure that there can be good, robust quality control around that. Then the future Government, whomever that may be, can look at that and say, "Do we want to continue with that, or do we want to keep NCEA just as a New Zealand - based qualification?" So COVID-19 provides us with an opportunity to actually see how that works in terms of the quality controls that can be put in place there.
In terms of Erica Stanford's comments about what is the gearing up involved and why delay the commencement: there's a very practical consideration in here, as well, that shifting that function to the Ministry of Education in the middle of a school year, when schools may be in the middle of consulting already on a process to change their enrolment zone, would potentially get quite messy. So allowing schools to finish any consultation periods for this year that they've already started gives them time to do that and it gives the Ministry of Education time to, effectively, have a good quality handover of those processes to the ministry where they're required.
In terms of the resourcing, the Ministry of Education is already very engaged in this process with schools. In terms of consultation, school communities will still be consulted to the same degree that they are now. School boards of trustees—the law, as members who have read through the bill will see that it's very clear school boards of trustees are consulted at least twice in the process leading up to consultation and during consultation as well. So the Ministry of Education won't be putting out draft zoning changes, for example, without consulting with school boards first, and I think that's a really important part of ensuring that there can still be confidence in the robustness of that process.
NICOLA WILLIS (National): I'm going to ask another couple of questions, but before I do so, I do want to note the circumstances in which we're analysing the 637-page Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) 544 that landed on the Table today. Those circumstances are that we have had, on this side of the Chamber, less than a day to look through the entire SOP, and I have to say, the more I look at it in detail, the more questions I have. So this may be one call, but I'm going to pack in a few questions.
I would ask the Minister first why it is that an SOP of such detail wasn't one that he felt any need to engage with us on. I stand in big footsteps in the form of Nikki Kaye, who was our previous education spokesperson, and I know she had a history of effective engagement with the Minister, and I hope that where we can work together to progress the interests of New Zealand's children and school system, that we will do so. Certainly putting an SOP of this magnitude down on the Table without any engagement prior isn't consistent with that.
So my question first is about the new powers that are given to the Secretary for Education under new clause 612D to direct education entities. Now, as I read it, these relate to when there is an epidemic notice in force. What I would like to understand is how the Minister sees these provisions operating under alert levels: i.e., what COVID alert levels could these provisions potentially be used under? I do want to note how significant the provisions are. They can be used, for example, for private training establishments—so not simply for State-run institutions but also for privately-run institutions—and the powers include operating, controlling, and managing the entity. So in the case of private training establishments, we are talking about the Government taking over the operation, control, and management of a private business.
So I would very much like to understand the Minister's thinking here in terms of in what circumstances these powers might be used and why it's thought that they're appropriate; noting, of course, we have just come through alert levels that are very serious, and at no point was there a question that I was aware of publicly that the Minister of Education required additional powers to take over the operation of private training establishments, universities, or other educational entities. So these are significant powers.
The powers also include directing the body of that entity to comply with requirements as to the opening or the closing of that entity for physical attendance or instruction. This is an interesting point for me, because here in Wellington, Victoria University did make a choice that it would restrict the amount of face-to-face instruction that was occurring, and there was some ambiguity about whether that would continue into different alert levels. So I'd ask the Minister again: does he anticipate a situation in which the Government would direct a university or other education entity as to the way it would provide instruction? And what, again, would be the criteria and circumstances in which the Minister would do that? So I have many more questions I could ask about this clause, but I think, given it's only landed in Parliament today—the powers appear very significant—it does bear some addressing.
The second area that I have questions about relates to new clause 71A and again is in relation to enrolment schemes. Frankly, I'll admit it, I'm a bit confused about what this clause means, and I'd just like the Minister to clear it up for me, because I want to know how subclauses (1) and (2) interact. The way I read subclause (1), it tells me that a Secretary for Education can allow for an enrolment scheme to exist that allows, essentially, siblings to attend the same school as their siblings, even though they no longer live in zone for that school. But what I want to understand is: is that an automatic allowance or is it something that each sibling or each family has to apply to the Secretary for Education for, or is it simply permitted? Because in subclause (2) we have that before granting an authorisation, the Secretary must be satisfied that it's in the best interests of the school and local community and can be managed within the existing school network.
That concerns me because it implies that there will be circumstances in which the secretary would reject the application of a sibling wishing to attend the same school as their siblings. This is a circumstance that occurs fairly regularly in our communities as families move from one neighbourhood to another but wish to keep their children at school together. The idea that every family would have to apply to the Ministry of Education for the right to do that does worry me somewhat. So I'm hoping the Minister can clear it up and tell me I'm wrong. So if the Minister could address those two issues, I'd be most appreciative.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Absolutely. Look, with regard to the 630-page Supplementary Order Paper (SOP), having been in Opposition, I do understand the concern that the member raises about that. The vast majority of the SOP is basically a reprint of the bill with additional amendments included in it. So it's not 630 pages of new amendments.
What's been interesting about the process of this legislation is quite a lot's happened since when the bill was first introduced and sent off to select committee. So a big set of the amendments are incorporating the vocational education reforms that Parliament's already passed. Of course, they had not been passed when the bill was first introduced. So it actually updates the bill to reflect changes that Parliament has subsequently already agreed to.
Similarly with the epidemic notice provisions that the member refers to, Parliament has actually already passed those provisions. We did that during that crazy period where Parliament passed a number of laws in response to COVID-19. So the changes in this bill simply bring those provisions that we passed in relation to COVID-19 into the current bill. Although the original set of provisions was specific to the one epidemic notice around COVID-19, this extends that to subsequent epidemic notices that may be issued. The reason for that is just a prudent one: we don't know when an epidemic may happen and we do need to have the ability to respond to those things.
The most common issue that I think we were concerned about were schools or early childhood services refusing to close when we needed them to close for public health reasons. So the ability to be able to do something about that was the motivation behind putting those in place. Now, of course, what we saw during the COVID-19 alert level escalation, if you like, was a huge degree of cooperation from the entire educational community, and as a result we didn't need to use any of the powers that are there. So these are really just sort of safeguarding for the future in a way that I hope no Minister will ever have to use in the future. I think as long as we see the type of cooperation that we did—bearing in mind, you know, COVID-19 is one epidemic. There's the potential for any number of other public health - related issues where an epidemic notice may be issued, and we do need to be prepared for those.
With regard to enrolment schemes, new clause 71A, that the member raised, this basically codifies existing practice that isn't, strictly speaking, allowed under the law, and it's what's called grandparenting. So where an enrolment scheme changes, if there's one sibling in what would now be an area outside of the zone, the Ministry of Education have always worked with schools to ensure that any siblings could be included in the school's enrolment. Strictly speaking, under current law, that's not allowed. So this basically just brings the law up to align with the current practice. So it is designed to ensure that what we do now and what we have been doing for a very long time—I think since enrolment schemes were first introduced in the late 1990s—it allows for that current practice to continue.
There was one other issue that got raised earlier on which I neglected to get to, and I think it might have been Tim Macindoe or someone who was raising questions about the entry provisions with regard to home-based early childhood education and the powers to go into a home. I've had my own kids in home-based early childhood education, so I'm well familiar with the model; it's one that I support. They are, of course, places of business. They would only be able to enter into a part of that home where the education was taking place, and it would be for the purposes of welfare check and quality control and so on.
Hon Tim Macindoe: The concern is being able to do it without a warrant.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Well, the issue is that it's a place of business. If someone is using their home as a place of business where they are being paid by the State to care for a child, then actually we've got a duty around ensuring that the welfare of that child is being maintained and that there are sufficient quality controls in place.
DAN BIDOIS (National—Northcote): I would like now to come to the issue of workforce development councils. As we know, these development councils replace the industry training organisations or ITOs, and certainly—
Hon Tracey Martin: No, they don't.
Hon Member: Ignore that.
DAN BIDOIS: OK. So as I understand it, these workforce development councils are established to maintain some skills across sectors in our country. Now, what I want to talk to you about, Minister, is something that I think I've raised with you in select committee, which is around how do we expose our kids to alternative careers other than university. I know we've had a discussion about this, and I wanted to know whether you thought that it was appropriate that these workforce development councils had a role to help our children choose apprenticeships, for example. As a guy who's gone down both routes—apprenticeship route first and then the university route—certainly I've seen the drive to get people into universities, and I think that shows in our stats, where actually 50 percent of school leavers go to universities and the rest either drop out or go into industry. So I wanted to get your sense of, in particular, clause 347, and whether it is something that you considered that workforce development councils could have a role to expose our children to private industry, to careers in private industry, to apprenticeships in private industry, and whether that is, I think, a missed opportunity, and whether there's something, actually—you know, whether you'd accept a late Supplementary Order Paper. I don't have one tabled.
I do think it is an issue. It's an issue that schools have talked to me about, that ITOs have talked to me about, that industry has talked to me about—the lack of apprentices. You can throw all your money on it, and you guys—your Government, sorry—is throwing money at it, but if you're not getting into our schools and getting excitement amongst our students to go into industry, to do an apprenticeship, if the best option they have is to go in to do a BA at university rather than do a builder's apprenticeship, then I think we've got a real problem in New Zealand.
Hon Tracey Martin: Don't knock a BA.
Dr Deborah Russell: Don't mock a BA.
DAN BIDOIS: Hey, I've got a BA—I've got a BA.
I think that's that challenge. I think the fact that the member opposite mentions the issue with the BA actually reinforces the stereotypes that we have over university qualifications versus builders versus butchers versus other trade apprentices. So I would like you, Minister, to address, I guess, the function of these workforce development councils, the role that they could have in helping to encourage school leavers to go into trades and other apprenticeships, and where this fits in this legislation. Thank you.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): I thank the member for his contribution. I was just reflecting, actually, as I was listening to the debate, that one of the things I think Parliament struggles with is this a little bit. We have far fewer tradies across the Chamber now than we might have had 30 years or 40 years ago, and that's something that the Parliament probably needs to reflect on. There are far more people around this Chamber with degrees than there would have been 30 years or 40 years ago. I think sometimes, actually, we lack that voice in Parliament, and I think it would be good to have a bit more of that here in the Chamber. I say that as someone with a university degree, but it would be good anyway.
With regard to workforce development councils, I absolutely believe they should have a role in exposing kids in schools to a broader range of career options. We've been doing a lot of work in this space. We start in this in New Zealand far too late. We wait till kids are thinking about what they're going to do when they leave school before we start getting good careers advice to them. Actually, we need to start much earlier in the piece, probably around intermediate school ages; the research is telling us that's where the careers advice should really be starting.
One of the things I've tried to do as Minister of Education is give credit where it's due. The last Government did some good things in this area. I think trades academies were a good innovation. Our Government has expanded them. I do believe that they are doing a good job of exposing kids to a wider range of career opportunities and getting them on a pathway which is leading to future qualifications and good, solid employment.
The Government prior to that—our Government—set up the Gateway programme, which was about getting kids into sort of tasters of on-job learning, and, actually, I think that that's a really positive programme as well.
We've put some money into careers expos and particularly vocational careers expos. Again, coming back to the member's actual question, workforce development councils, I think, can play a really significant role here in getting businesses connected with schools to expose kids to that wide range of different trades and career options that might be available to them.
I have to say, for a long time, the universities have done a far better job of getting into schools than vocational education providers and businesses have done. We need to really do something about that. We're working very hard on doing something about that, because I want to make sure that kids understand the full range of options that are available to them.
ERICA STANFORD (National—East Coast Bays): Thank you, Mr Chair. I hope the Minister in the chair, the Hon Chris Hipkins, will indulge me, because there have, obviously, been a lot of changes made and there's a lot to go through, so if you wouldn't mind. I mean, I also didn't sit on the Education and Workforce Committee for a lot of this, but I was here for the first and second readings, and there was some talk around the police vetting for the home-based early childcare providers.
Some of the comments that were made and some of the feedback that I had early on was that initially it was every person that lived at that house would need to be police vetted, and there were some concerns around that: whether or not people who weren't working or in that house at the time that the operation was being undertaken, would they need to be vetted? There was a lot of pushback around that.
I'm just wanting to know: have there been any changes made around that? What advice has the Minister had? Is it still the case that every single person who lives in that house—regardless of whether or not they work or are there during the time—are still to be vetted? Yeah, I just wanted him to clarify, because I haven't been able to.
Dr PARMJEET PARMAR (National): Thank you, Mr Chair. My question that I want to ask the Minister in chair, Chris Hipkins, is in Part 3—it's clause 95. This is about physical force at registered schools, because during the select committee process we had a number of submitters that wanted to discuss this change of term. I believe that because of this, this discussion has come up again, because before it was sitting in the legislation as "restraint", but people knew how to operate and how to use that term or how to use physical restraint in schools. But with the "physical force" term coming up, this discussion has come up again, and my fear is that this will imply that, somehow, physical force can be applied in a way which we don't want it to be applied.
I know in clause 95, in subclause 2(c), it says that "the physical force used is reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances", and also in the select committee, we did define what physical force actually means, but we know that children have different kinds of strengths, especially children that have special needs. So how will a grown-up understand what reasonable and proportionate force means for that child? We are talking about children that are of a very young age, from year 5 to older ages in schools. So I have a concern about this, because we have anti-smacking legislation in New Zealand, and I know this is not smacking, but parents cannot use force which can be seen as smacking. But here I know that the force is only to be used to stop any—as we have defined in the select committee process—bodily movement that can cause any kind of harm to that student or anyone else, but it's a fine, fine line.
So I want the Minister to clarify to me why, actually, we need physical force. We could have done without physical force in this legislation in our education system. Why do we need this kind of physical force, because, to me, it seems it can be interpreted in a way which we don't want? What kind of training will be there for teachers to understand what physical force actually means? Thank you, Mr Chair.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Thank you. Just running back to the issue around police vetting for home-based early childhood education (ECE)—I think a very legitimate issue there. Why would adults who are not normally present, or young adults, in some cases, who are not normally present in the home require police vetting? That's because they can be present in the home. It is, ultimately, someone's home.
So someone can be home sick, for example, when the children are present in the house, and it is important that children are kept safe—bearing in mind that we could have up to five children under the age of five under the care of one adult in a house. If another adult who is not police-checked is at home, if there was a concern, then that actually significantly increases the risk for those five children who could be in that home. Home-based is the least supervised part of our early childhood education system. As I've indicated before, I believe in it as a part of our ECE system. I believe that home-based environment is a really good one for some kids, but we've just got to have really good, robust quality controls in place to make sure those kids are being kept safe.
With regard to the comments from Parmjeet Parmar, the member was working off the bill as reported back from select committee, not the Supplementary Order Paper (SOP), and those are provisions that have been changed. So the word "force" is now no longer used; we've gone back to the use of the word "restraint" after some further consultation with the sector. But the key issues I think the member raises are legitimate ones, which are around guidelines and training. So the bill now, with the SOP, puts some pretty rigid consultation requirements in place around the development of the guidelines to ensure that all of these issues can be carefully worked through with everybody involved, from the disability community through to the teaching community and everybody in between, and also that we can then develop and make sure we've got in place good training for teachers. There's no question at all that that's actually the key to making this whole thing work.
ERICA STANFORD (National—East Coast Bays): Sorry I keep harping back to zoning issues, but we've had so much feedback on this. I wanted to talk to the Minister about a case of a school here, and I know that it's not in my electorate but it's here in Karori—or just over the hill from Karori. A school that has a special—they take a lot of kids with additional learning needs, and they're really well-known for that. Parents want to send their children there, the school is wanting to cater for these children who aren't in a set zone, they're well-known for that, and they've got really good teachers who are capable of looking after those children who have those additional learning needs. So I guess the question is—I've been made aware recently that they've been forced to have a school zone. So, immediately, that excludes all of those families. Now, before the decision was made to put a zone on them, they were sorting themselves out really well, and the communities that they were taking children from were happy—everyone was happy—until this decision was made to come and create a zone.
Now, there will be more schools like that around the country who are well-known for certain things—you know, either it's special needs, additional learning support, dyslexia, dyspraxia—and their ability to take students from a wide range of suburbs that may not necessarily be in their immediate zone is really useful. Just hearing that case that Nicola Willis was talking to me about immediately raised some concerns with me, because I can see, potentially, that—it's already happening, but I can see this happening more—having school zones forced upon schools like this will actually have a detrimental effect to families who have children with, for example, additional learning needs being able to send them to schools who can cater for those needs.
So I'm just wondering if the Minister has come across cases like that, has taken it into consideration, and what he sees as the potential solution to situations like this when there are schools that cater for those needs.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Health): Look, I think, again, the issue the member raises is a really serious one. We've got a challenge, I think, in New Zealand around genuinely inclusive education. Some schools go out of their way to be inclusive, and they become what we colloquially term "magnet schools" where parents, if they've got kids who've got additional needs, seek out the schools who make their kids feel welcome and go to the ends of the earth to cater for those kids, and I take my hat off to those schools. But I think every school should be making that effort, and they don't, and that's the problem. And it's not something that we should tolerate.
There are subtle things that some schools do to make it clear to parents whose kids have additional needs that they are not welcome at their school, and that is not acceptable. It is just wrong. Kids should be allowed to attend their local school, and they should be given all of the support that they need by their local school in order to be able to thrive in their education. I think that it's wrong that that's not happening.
Tying it back to the issue of zoning and where some of this pressure comes from, there are subtle things schools do that are unacceptable and that we have to put a stop to. So a school principal saying, for example, "Oh, yes, of course you can enrol your child at my school. We'll look after your child—but, you know that other school down the road, they've got heaps more kids who are like your child, and they'd do a much better job of looking after them." Now, if you're a parent, which school are you going to choose? The one who welcomes you with open arms or the one who sends that kind of signal to you? I've got to say to the schools who are sending those kind of signals to parents: they're wrong. It is not acceptable. Every school should welcome every child in their community and should do everything that they can to make sure that they are properly catered for.
ERICA STANFORD (National—East Coast Bays): Thank you. Look, I understand the Minister's passion about this, and, yes, they should, and it's all very well to say that, but the point is that there are some schools who just do it better. They cater better for children with additional learning needs. And saying that children can't go to that school because they have to go to the school that's in their local area just doesn't give them the best outcomes for their children.
I understand his sentiment around it shouldn't happen—and it's not even necessarily that schools aren't welcoming; it's just that there are other schools that do a far better job. Giving parents that choice to send their kid who has an additional learning need to a school that can better cater for them—surely that's what we want. So I take your point, but I disagree.
What I would also point out, and I'd like just to take this a step further, is it's not only that they have better teachers or programmes, but actually for an example in my electorate, I've had many parents come to me and say, "I'm in zone for this school. They don't have any single-cell classrooms; they're all open plan. My kid's got an auditory problem, they've got an auditory receiver, or they've got some kind of learning need that means that they don't deal well in the open plan, modern classroom, and my local school doesn't cater for that. Can you help me, as my local MP, get my child into a school out of our zone that will cater for their needs because they've got an audio receiver or some other learning need that means that they need a single-cell classroom or a different configuration of classrooms?" So you've got that issue, as well.
It's not about schools not being welcoming or having the wrong attitude, often it's the case that the school—the property and the configuration of the classrooms—just doesn't suit that child. I have that again and again and again, and I just think that, yep, there are some schools that do it better, and they've got teachers who are more geared up for learning disabilities and additional learning needs. You've got some schools that have got a better configuration of classrooms, and those parents already are facing such struggles getting their children to learn because of those additional learning needs that surely we should be offering them the very best start by allowing them to choose the school that best caters for their needs rather than forcing them into a school that perhaps doesn't, and I would invite the Minister to respond to that.
DAN BIDOIS (National—Northcote): I just want to follow the chain of this discussion on the enrolment issues, or the zoning issues in particular—just going back to what Minister Chris Hipkins answered before about how adaptable the schools were during COVID-19 and how the ministry gave the schools more discretion. In relation to zoning, I do have concerns about the way in which the ministry will be taking over the control for zoning and what that means for, again, more bureaucracy that we're giving to schools.
So, firstly, I've got a couple of schools in my electorate that require school zones, and under the current system, they would be able to go through a process and determine that zone themselves. I've also got other schools in my community that wish to change their zones, and under the current system they would have been able to do that. Under Supplementary Order Paper 544, which you've left with us at the last minute, essentially the ministry overrides that and takes that process on. I just want to, again, challenge the Minister as to how this reduces bureaucracy for our boards and our school principals at a time where—particularly in Auckland—roll growth has been extremely high in some schools and low in others. Therefore, there's going to be a desire for adaptability and nimbleness in our schools, where schools are able to adapt really quickly, given their growth over the next couple of years, and all of a sudden they're going to be hit—bang, smack—with the bureaucracy of this ministry to seek approval for, essentially, making a change to the zone.
So, again, I wish to push the Minister to answer the question of how does a change in proposed new clause 69A around enrolment schemes actually reduce bureaucracy for our boards and our principals. If he can outline that, that would be very much appreciated.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Just to respond to a couple of those issues with regard to some schools having special programmes for kids, there are criteria in here that allow for enrolment zones to give priority to students who are enrolled in a special programme, even if they are not within the school's zone. So there are provisions there that will allow that to continue to happen.
The grandparenting for enrolment zones is for a school and not for an individual family. If the Secretary for Education approves for grandparenting to be allowed, that's for the whole school and not for each individual family within that school, so I just wanted to clarify that.
In terms of the issue around the bureaucracy of enrolment schemes, this doesn't really change much with regard to the bureaucracy that's associated with enrolment schemes. It does change the emphasis of where the burden of that rests, and so more of the burden of that will rest with the ministry than with the individual schools. At the moment, basically, the schools have to do all of that work themselves. Now, the Ministry of Education will take a lot of that work, but, of course, the schools will still be very involved in that process.
NICOLA WILLIS (National): I want to ask about the new licensing process for early learning services that is introduced in this bill. The Minister of Education, I understand, has introduced these new provisions, I think, out of a concern that there has been a proliferation in new early learning services. I'm not sure whether that's the case, because it hasn't ever been stated explicitly. I have a concern that we have had times in New Zealand's history—in fact, even just a decade ago—where we actually had a shortage of early learning service places in many parts of the country, and where parents, and, frankly, women in particular, were delayed in their ability to return to work when they had young children because they were unable to find early learning places for them.
It remains the case today that there are still parts of the country where, from time to time, there are real shortages of early learning. In fact, it is the case sometimes here in Wellington City that people will struggle to find an early learning place for their child at the age that they wish them to commence early learning. So it's in that context that I raise with Minister Hipkins my concern that potentially, having this new two-step process, which introduces a far higher degree of uncertainty for early learning providers about whether or not a centre may, in fact, progress, may limit the creation of new early learning services in a way that will constrain parents' access to early childhood education.
And I say that against the backdrop of what the Minister knows is a very complicated process for setting up an early learning service, because first you have to battle the Resource Management Act. That's actually the first bit you have to do. You have to get permission from the local council to put an early learning service in, and that's no easy thing, because there are concerns from neighbours about noise and cars and driveways. Different councils around the country deal with it in different ways, but even then, once the consent's granted—of course it's appropriate that a licensing step occur where the Ministry of Education approve a licence, or not, for a service. My concern is that the new two-step process that the Minister's proposing is, frankly, vague. And so I would be interested to hear from the Minister what mitigation he sees to that, and also how much discretion he envisages applying in the application of this new two-step process.
What are the circumstances in which a new early learning service would have its application for a licence rejected that are different from the current provisions, under which already the Ministry of Education, within the current law as it stands, can reject a licence for an early learning service on the basis that it doesn't think that that early learning service meets the right tests for providing early childhood education? I put to the Minister: what are the additional considerations that he will be able to make in assessing these applications that actually add value, as opposed to simply adding delay and adding uncertainty? Because, as I've said, the end result of delay and uncertainty could be a shortage in early learning places in some parts of the country. I also put to him: what process will there be if people feel that the way that their application has been assessed is unfair? Short of judicial review, obviously—but will there be other ways in which people can interact effectively in this two-step process?
The second area I wish to ask further questions about relates to the zoning provisions that my colleagues have also been asking many questions about. And when it comes to those zoning provisions, my question relates to the circumstance which actually occurs pretty frequently, which is where the ministry fails to build new classrooms on time. Actually, the ministry—I'm sorry, they're wonderful officials, we enjoy it when they come to the Education and Workforce Committee, they're smart people, but sometimes they are slow at getting things built. Now, in that circumstance, isn't it convenient that the ministry can then decide that a zone is so tight that it doesn't require them to build those classrooms anymore? How does the Minister envisage using ministerial power to ensure that the ministry doesn't just use these new, wider powers it's been given to make its own job easier, at the expense of local communities who wish to be able to send their children to a school that does not have enough capacity because school property hasn't been developed on time? Thank you.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Just briefly on those points, I think the main issue around early childhood education licensing, which is one that I canvassed with the member's colleague earlier, where people will notice the difference is the moves that we will be able to put in place to stop the proliferation of low-quality early childhood education providers. I can think of one big early childhood education provider now that's expanding quite significantly—it's one that has a reasonably strong link with the National Party—which provides a very good quality of early childhood education.
Nicola Willis: I'll tell Tony.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Um, please don't! And, actually, you know, they're expanding: they will almost certainly meet the licensing criteria. There won't be issues with them, because actually they're providing a good quality of early childhood education. We have had examples in recent times, though, of services who maybe have restrictions on their licences continuing to expand by opening more services, and, actually, that's the sort of thing that I think we should all agree we don't want to see happen. We actually want to sort out the issues that you've got with your existing services first, and then, if you can get that sorted, look to expand. I think that that's the main difference. We can't do that at the moment. We can't take that into account in the licensing regime at the moment. So this will allow that to happen, which I think would be welcome.
The last point the member raised was—
Nicola Willis: Zoning and school property.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: —zoning and school property, and I think she raises a very legitimate point. I think that as a country, we've been far too slow—and this is not just—I'm not going to point the finger at any particular Government for this. Over 30 years, we have been far too slow to expand schools to cope with population growth. We actually went through a period in the early 2000s where we saw a downward trend, and there were the school reviews, because, actually, rolls were going down. And then, of course, suddenly they turned back up again, and we were far too slow as a country to start expanding the school property. So I think the Ministry of Education is getting better at that, and I think that they've sped that up. Modular classrooms are part of the solution. Sometimes it's better to bring in modular classrooms, even if it's only as a temporary solution—Tim Macindoe's nodding furiously, because I know he was involved in these discussions—until you can build.
One of the constraints that we've got, of course, is that some of our school sites, particularly in the areas where the population's growing very quickly, are on small sites, and therefore the best way to go is up, rather than out. Those are the ones that we have the challenge with, because you can't always whack a modular classroom on there, because there's not enough room, and so you've got to go up. Those are the ones where we haven't kept up with population growth, because it takes that much longer to plan and to build for that more complex growth.
One of the things that the Government has done, and we did it in last year's Budget—and I think every Minister of Education who came before me will be envious of this—is we grouped up four years' worth of population growth funding and appropriated it in a single Budget. The reason for doing that is because of the length of time that it takes to plan and execute these programmes. If you're only getting one year's funding at a time, you're not planning far enough ahead, because you haven't got the money to plan far enough ahead. So by doing four years' worth of planning—and each year you add the next year on to the tail end of that—then actually you can speed the whole pipeline of construction work up. And I think that that builds on some of the work that Tim Macindoe, and before him Nikki Kaye, were doing in the school property area, because I think we would all agree we've got to be faster at coping with population growth.
The question was put that the amendments set out on Supplementary Order Paper 544 in the name of the Hon Chris Hipkins be agreed to.
A party vote was called for on the question, That the amendments be agreed to.
New Zealand Labour 46; New Zealand First 9; Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand 8.
New Zealand National 54; ACT New Zealand 1; Ross.
Amendments agreed to.
A party vote was called for on the question, That Parts 1 to 6, Schedules 1 to 24, and clauses 1 and 2 as amended be agreed to.
New Zealand Labour 46; New Zealand First 9; Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand 8.
New Zealand National 54; ACT New Zealand 1; Ross.
Parts 1 to 6, Schedules 1 to 24, and clauses 1 and 2 as amended agreed to.
Bill reported with amendment.