The Education and Training Act 2020, containing the biggest changes to New Zealand education in decades, has passed all stages in Parliament and become law.
The Act’s main provisions:
- support the right of all learners to attend school fulltime
- focus boards on a wider range of objectives including achievement, requiring schools to ensure the physical and emotional safety of students and staff, that they be inclusive, cater for students with differing needs, and that they give effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi
- focus on improving education success for Māori students by requiring Boards to, for example, take ‘reasonable steps‘ to incorporate tikanga Māori and te reo Maori into students’ learning
- improve the quality and viability of early learning and home based education services
- introduce additional requirements for new early learning service applications to ensure that the network better meets the needs of children
- create a framework for dispute resolution panels to help learners and whānau resolve serious disputes with their schools on issues such as enrolment and attendance, safety, learning support, racism, and bullying, where these cannot be resolved at school level
- require Boards to consult when setting school rules
- introduce a code of conduct for Board members, and minimum appointment criteria for new principals.
The most significant change to the original Bill is the restoring of restrictions on the use of ‘physical restraint.’ This follows concern from many submitters that the change to a more permissive approach based on the use of ‘physical force’, the phrase used in the Bill originally, was likely to lead to the greater use of force in schools.
The change makes it clear that any restraint must be reasonable and proportionate. Restraint must only be used to prevent imminent harm, including significant emotional distress, to a student or another person and only where staff believe there is no other alternative.
The changes specify that staff members authorised to use physical restraint must be trained, and set out what must be in the rules and guidelines that the Ministry of Education develops, including a framework for prevention and de-escalation, to further support our educators.
The transferring of the responsibility for enrolment schemes to the Ministry of Education is delayed until January 2021, and a provision is added allowing grandparenting in these schemes at the Secretary’s discretion.
This change allows the siblings of current students to enrol at the same school when a new enrolment scheme is adopted or an amendment to the home zone of an existing scheme is made.