Does Labour’s $4bn education plan signal anything new?


A young boy writes at a desk at a primary school.

Its agenda looks very similar to last election and virtually all of the policies have been announced or signalled in the past year.

But it would invest an extra $4bn a year into upgrading classrooms, recruiting more teachers and giving students access to digital devices.

Labour would also give an extra $150 per student to every school that agreed to stop asking parents for a donation.

Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins said there was a lot of ground to make up after nine years of under-investment from National.

“That’s why we’ll immediately take steps to establish and implement a plan to rebuild out-dated and worn out buildings that National has neglected and aim to ensure that every school has modern classrooms by 2030.

“We can’t afford to have our kids learning in overcrowded classrooms and spaces that were never intended for classroom learning, such as caravans and dental clinics that we’ve seen under National,” said Mr Hipkins.

However, Labour has scrapped a pledge for smaller class sizes, saying the National government had spent the money it would have used.

Louise Green from the primary teachers union, the New Zealand Educational Institute, said if Labour was in a position to implement its plan, it would be good for the sector.

“They’ve responded really clearly to the messages that the educators, parents and the community have been talking about … the under-funding in the system, the issues for children with special needs, quality teachers.”

But where are the big, bold, new ideas?

There is one, said Ms Green.

“Something that we’ve been talking about for a while, and that is actually having a conversation across parties, across the sector to actually identify what it is that we are aiming for in education.”

National’s campaign chair, Steven Joyce, said there was a feeling of deja vu around the whole manifesto, as it closely resembled Labour’s 2014 policy.

“It’s like they just twinked out David Cunliffe’s and twinked in Andrew Little’s name.”

Mr Hipkins said they were not going to discard good policy for the sake of it.

“There’s a lot from our last policy that’s very similar, I think we had a really good policy on education going into the last election campaign and you’ll see many of those things carried forward.

Labour was being more bold in its approach to restoring “free education” at all levels, he said.

“And specifying what our first steps towards that will be.”


Written by Loknath Das