6 Jul 2014

Labour pledges to reduce class sizes

5:02 pm on 6 July 2014

The Labour Party says it will reduce class sizes by funding an extra 2000 teachers, using resources freed up by scrapping the Government's 'executive principals' policy.

David Cunliffe speaking to the media after his speech.

David Cunliffe speaking to the media after his speech. Photo: RNZ / Demelza Leslie

The party held its election-year congress in Wellington, where David Cunliffe, outlined Labour's education policy in his address to an estimated 1000 party faithful.

He said a Labour Government will reduce the current average student-teacher ratios at primary schools (29-to-one), to 26-to-one by 2018 - and will train almost 1000 more teachers.

Mr Cunliffe said a Labour Government would also change the ratios in secondary schools from 26-to-one, to 23-to-one and train 900 more teachers.

Labour would also set up a school advisory service to share best practice and provide mentors and advisors to teachers throughout the country.

Labour will fund its plan to reduce class sizes by scrapping the Government's $359 million plan to appoint teachers to expert and lead teacher roles.

Mr Cunliffe said Labour would also get rid of National Standards and redirect the resources spent forcing those standards on schools into teacher professional development programmes.

On Saturday, Labour announced plans to provide students from years five to 13 - mostly aged nine years and above - with portable computers, and an extra $25 million for professional development for teachers to adapt to the new digital environment.

Mr Cunliffe said - outside the conference, on Saturday - that it was expected that by 2017 all children and young people would use personal digital devices for their learning.

He said that to ensure no Kiwi child was disadvantaged by their parents' financial situation, Labour would provide an affordable way to purchase a portable computer.

Mr Cunliffe said Labour would provide a $100 kick-start to reduce the costs and a $5 million hardship fund would be created to help families who cannot afford the payments or who fall into arrears.

He also said Labour would provide $25 million for professional development for teachers to ensure they were well prepared for the use of digital devices. And he said it would also rebuild schools so they can adapt to the new digital future.

"What we're talking about is improved design, stuff that's technology-friendly, open flexible spaces, room for flexible class sizes..."

No detail - National

National said on Saturday that Labour's plan to provide students from Year 5 (nine-year-olds) with portable computers did not appear to have been thought through.

Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye said there was no detail on how Labour is going to deal with rapid changes in technology or interest costs, or whether the plan was limited to one device throughout the period of the student's time in school.