The Opportunities Party 2020

TOP, The Opportunities Party, expressed an interest in taking part in QPEC’s education Forum 2020.  
QPEC invited TOP to send in a written statement, reprinted below.

Party policy on education at different levels

The Early Years of Learning: TOP’s Educational Priority.  

Early Childhood Education (ECE) can shape outcomes, improve equity, benefit child development and build strong communities.    

  • Evidence shows that participation in quality ECE can benefit child development
  • There is no evidence that increased hours leads to better outcomes
  • There is some evidence that extended exposure to ECE can lead to detrimental behavioural outcomes
  • There is some evidence that regulations in NZ are substandard, especially around space allocations and group size.

Recent policy decisions have centred on participation in ECE with little consideration to the quality of children’s learning experience.    

TOP agree with neuroscience educator, Nathan Wallis and others, that warm, responsive relationships are crucial to every child’s social, emotional and academic development.  

TOP wants to enable the ECE sector to deliver on the promises of our world-renowned curriculum, Te Whāriki.   Our soon-to-be-released ECE policy takes a community-oriented approach to ECE in NZ.

We also acknowledge that parents are a child's first teachers, but that many cannot afford to spend quality time with their children during these early years.   Our Universal Basic Income policy will go a long way to giving parents more lifestyle choices and valuing the unpaid work of raising children.  


The Middle Years of Learning: Primary and High School

NZ’s performance in education in the middle years is slipping, particularly at the lower end, to the detriment of our whole society.  

  • Evidence shows that schools are spending too much time testing our children rather than teaching them
  • Assessment can be useful for diagnostics or to customise learning, but should not be used to judge performance
  • Test results can only show part of a child's development
  • Over-assessment is counterproductive to finding a child’s strengths and realising their full potential.  

TOP’s educational vision is to develop a high-trust system similar to Finland.  

Low-trust models that dictate the curriculum and use heavy measurement methods to gauge performance, can lead to cramming-based learning and teach-to-the-test approaches.  

Instead, TOP wants invest in quality training for teachers, trust teachers as professionals, pay them fairly, and give them freedom to decide how and what to teach.  

As part of this model, we will require students to leave school with one National Certificate in Educational Achievement (NCEA) qualification, either Level 1, 2, or 3.  The prior high school years would have comprehensive individual learning plans that celebrate the natural talents, interests and passions of youth.  

We would like to see soft skills like collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking (4Cs) developed across a variety of contexts across all age groups.   In a world of rapid change, disruption, and requirements to retrain throughout life we know how important the 4Cs model is to employers and society.   


The Latter Years of Learning: Tertiary, Vocational and Life-long Learning.

Tertiary education plays an important role in our society, particularly in developing critical thinking skills that are becoming increasingly important to the economy and a civil society.  

We believe that in recent decades tertiary institutions have lost their way, largely due to the way they are funded which has led to substandard education, research and innovation outputs.  TOP intends to review the tertiary sector and dismantle PBRF in its current form.  

TOP would draw on evidence and expertise to reimagine the tertiary sector so it encourages:

  • Lifelong and flexible education, such as short intensive courses, that inspires a continually improving and well-rewarded workforce.
  • A collaborative rather than competing model across institutions in terms of administration, teaching and research initiatives.
  • A multi-disciplinary pursuit of knowledge by breaking down silos within and across tertiary institutions.
  • Partnerships between tertiary providers and the private sector, community networks and the public service to ensure education is fit for purpose.
  • The availability of academic knowledge for public consumption. 

2    Party priorities at any of the levels of education  

TOP will:

  • Prioritise the Early Years of Learning (for 0-7 year olds) to support community-oriented early child development.
  • Restore the status of teachers by ensuring they are well paid, highly qualified, involved in continued professional development and empowered to get on with the job of teaching.  
  • Recreate a Ministry of Education that supports teaching and learning.
  • Dismantle the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) and Education Review Office and reform the NZ Qualifications Authority.
  • Reduce arbitrary student assessments in secondary school to free up more time for teaching and learning. 
  • Refocus the Teaching Council to ensure it continues to be beneficial for all teachers and learners.  
  • Encourage schools to work together rather than compete with one another, and support students to attend their local schools.
  • Implement other recommendations of the 2018 Tomorrow’s Schools review to create an effective administrative system that supports the profession.
  • Ensure that special learning needs assessments have more equitable entry criteria and students receive better funding to support them.
  • Review the tertiary education sector to ensure it is providing lifelong learning opportunities.

The following issues in your responses will be of particular interest to the QPEC audience: 


ECE is 80% private.   What do you propose for the future of this sector?   


In 2018, the government spent $1.8b on early childhood education.  TOP questions whether this money is being well-spent in terms of the development of the children themselves.  

Unfortunately, the government has no knowledge of the proportion of early childhood education spend that ends up in private pockets, as private enterprises are not required to provide full financial reporting to the Ministry.  Certainly, the trend over the last 12 years has been for early childhood education to become a lucrative business opportunity, with steady growth in the private sector.  

Meanwhile, Playcentres and Kōhanga Reo have been marginalised by regulatory changes and are closing, many kindergartens have moved to full-day sessions to compete with the private market, and the corporatisation of early childhood education has created ‘factory farms’ for children.  The increasing dominance of large corporations has also seen closure of smaller owner-operator centres, some of which are of superior quality, as well as closure of community-based centres. 

Those businesses that concentrate on quality are placed at a disadvantage in the current system, and may also face predatory commercial practices, in which a large corporation with financial reserves may offer fees-free periods to attract parents, forcing competitors to cut quality and or go out of business.  The net result has been a driving down of quality across the sector. Without action, TOP expects these trends to continue.  

TOP advocates for an early learning sector that prioritises community-oriented services, because they tend to offer higher quality ECE by growing the whole family and the community.  TOP will change policy, regulation and funding structures to accommodate this more holistic perspective.  More details will be released in TOP’s ECE policy before the election in September.


ECE: What enhanced support will you give to kōhanga reo and play centre?   

 In the 2020 budget, Te Kōhanga Reo received a much needed $200 million over four years to spend on staffing and facilities.  There are currently 440 Te Kōhanga Reo services with 8500 children attending.  TOP agrees this investment is needed to revitalise child wellbeing in previously under-resourced communities. We are hopeful this investment will see an increase in Te Kōhanga Reo attendance.


Meanwhile Playcentre received just $3.1 million of the $50 billion budget allocation overall (and a recent top-up of $3.7 million as a result of the outcry following the first budget announcement).  Interestingly, the NZ Racing Industry, which contributes significantly to New Zealand First in party donations, received $72 million.  


Once considered mainstream, Playcentre has been increasingly marginalised by policy decisions. Playcentre educates 7% of preschoolers and received less than 2% of the ECE budget. With 400 Playcentres in New Zealand, 9500 children attending, the ignorance of government to the value of Playcentre is disappointing.


Parents who voluntarily accompany their children to ECE, undertake ECE education and forego wages and careers should be valued by our society for the effort they are expending on behalf of future generations.  Playcentres grow whole communities, and this needs to be valued within the system.  Playcentres should certainly be able to afford cleaners and administrative support to ease the burden for these valuable educators of our tamariki.  TOP will implement initiatives to increase Playcentre participation.  


Our Universal Basic Income package of $250/week/adult + $40/week/child values the nature of such unpaid work, and gives families more choices.  We would also create a community-oriented ECE sector that values Playcentre and Te Kōhanga Reo services.


Te Tiriti: how will you recognise the right of Māori to equal partnership in mainstream schools, kura and kōhanga reo?

 The equal partnership of Māori is integral to all TOP policy.  TOP believes in devolution of meaningful decision making to communities as an expression of rangatiratanga as per the Treaty of Waitangi.  Where ever possible, TOP sees iwi as integral partners in these decision-making processes.  TOP supports community-based initiatives such as creating full-service sites at schools, which offer extensive wrap-around services in disadvantaged communities.  Such initiatives recognise the holistic nature of child development and the importance of Te Whare Tapa Wha (mental health, extended family health, physical health and spiritual health).  TOP would support initiatives that enable communities to develop alongside the education system. 


Social Inclusion – Poverty:  regarding "every person," What will your party do to lift children out of poverty?   (Consider poverty damaging learning because of poor health, overcrowded homes, student transience)  


TOP would give a Universal Basic Income (UBI) to every NZ citizen or permanent resident of $13,000 per year per adult (18-64 yrs) and $2080 per child (paid to the parent/caregiver).  Global evidence indicates that a UBI is the most effective way to eradicate poverty, as it incentivises work (people don’t lose it when they work), it raises minimum wage earners over the living wage threshold, and it provides a basic level of dignity and equal opportunity from which citizens can thrive.


TOP’s will also radically change the way we provide social housing, ensure renters have a home that they can’t be easily evicted from (unless they damage the property or don’t pay rent) and require rental properties to have a building warrant of fitness.


Social Inclusion – Special needs:  In what ways can you provide adequate funding for special needs grants and ORS (Ongoing Resource Scheme) 


Special learning needs assessments need to have more equitable entry criteria and students need to receive better funding to support them.  


Tomorrow's Schools:  

  •  decile funding system   
  • equity in state school provision   

 TOP supports the recommendations of the Tomorrow’s Schools review to encourage collaboration between schools.  The decile system is being used as a proxy for school performance, which has exacerbated the inequality between schools.  TOP believes every student should have equal access to quality education in NZ.  TOP would encourage local school attendance as one way to create equity between schools and social mixing, and provide better funding for schools that have many disadvantaged students. 


Tertiary:  Funding

  • What system?  
  • Student Fees?  
  • Free fees system? 

 TOP does not believe in telling youth what to do or where to train.  Rather, TOP would give a universal basic income to all adults, that would enable youth to make their own decisions.  If the full universal basic income can not be negotiated in coalition discussions, TOP’s fall-back policy is an unconditional basic income for youth (18-24 year olds) and families with children under three.  Either way, youth would get a UBI from TOP.

 TOP would dismantle the Performance Based Research Fund immediately and review other funding structures in the tertiary sector, to incentivise a model of life-long learning.  As part of this model, TOP would encourage flexible education, such as short intensive courses, to create a continually improving and well-rewarded workforce.



  • Benefits/drawbacks of RoVE (Reform of Vocational Education)?   


Creating efficiencies in the administration of our institutions is necessary; however, these efficiencies need to be driven by the institutions themselves, rather than a top-down approach by politicians who do not understand the sector.


ACE – Adult Community Education: 

  • Reinstatement of ACE?


TOP would reinstate Adult Community Education, and promote this as an excellent approach to life-long learning.


2020 FORUM - MAY 9TH


 QPEC Forum 2020 

Saturday 9th May

The QPEC Education Forum 2020 will be digital this year, thanks to Covid's intervention.  The first part is a Zoom transmission, through the generous support of NZEI Te Riu Roa.  

10:00 - 11:30          Critical analysis of education

 Chair: Assoc-Professor Georgina Stewart, AUT

●       ECE:  Assoc Professor Andrew Gibbons, AUT 

●       Public schools:  Professor Peter O'Connor, University of Auckland

●       Tertiary:  David Kenkel, Unitec



1:00 - 2:30         Union panel  

Chair: Lynda Stuart, NZEI  

●       Liam Rutherford, NZEI

●       Jack Boyle, PPTA

●       Dr Sandra Grey, TEU


20 minutes per speaker, allowing 30 mins for question time

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 865 7826 5011
Password: 550782

This code will be active throughout the day.   


At a later date, being negotiated:

*Political parties panel




Critical Analysis of Education

Georgina Stewart:  Chairperson

Associate Professor Georgina Stewart:  School of Education AUT University

Formerly a secondary school teacher of Science, Mathematics and Māori in both English-medium and Māori-medium schools. I have published widely since 2005 on Māori science education and Māori philosophy of education. I recently completed a Marsden research project investigating academic writing in Māori.  


Professor Peter O’Connor:  University of Auckland Faculty of Education and Social Work 

Peter O’Connor is Professor of Education and Director of the Centre for Arts and Social Transformation at the University of Auckland.  He is the National Education spokesperson for Child Poverty Action Group, former National Education Manager for the Race Relations Office and was President of the Foundation for Peace Studies for ten years. His research centres on the possibilities of education and the arts to make a more socially just and inclusive Aotearoa.  (Click on link)  Prof. Peter O'Connor, University of Auckland

David Kenkel:   Unitec School of Healthcare and Social Practice

David is a senior lecturer in social practice at Unitec.  His research interests include: Post-structural and socially contexted approaches to social practice education, the impact of   Neo-liberalism on social practice and the role of social work and community development in a world under threat from climate change and resource depletion. 


Professor Andrew Gibbons AUT University School of Education

Andrew is an early childhood teacher educator and Associate Professor at the School of Education. He has worked in journalism, in the social services in England and in early childhood education in Auckland.  Andrew has a keen interest in philosophy and politics. He has published widely on topics including the early childhood teaching profession and Aotearoa New Zealand early childhood education policy.


Union Representatives

Lynda Stuart – Chairperson

Lynda has been a teacher for more than 30 years. She is the Immediate Past President of NZEI Te Riu Roa and currently the principal at May Road Primary School in Mt Roskill.  Lynda was a member of the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand and before that the New Zealand Teachers Council.   She is a strong advocate for the needs of Pasifika and Maori communities, equity and special education.  

 Jack Boyle - PPTA

Before being elected as PPTA President in 2017, Jack served PPTA members from the branch level through to roles on executive and as junior vice president.   Raised in Hawkes Bay and having lived in London and Auckland, Jack is now enjoying being based in Wellington. Before becoming a teacher Jack was involved in the commercial entertainment industry, which has given him a real appreciation of the scale of work teachers do.


Sandra Grey - TEU

Sandra is the National Secretary of Te Hautū Kahurangi - NZ Tertiary Education Union. With a PhD from the Australian National University, Dr Grey comes from a long background in academia, unionism, and social justice movements. Recently Sandra has served on the NZIST Establishment Board which is one part of the reform of vocational education. She is a political scientist who tutored at the University of Auckland and the ANU, and was a lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington for eight years.


Liam Rutherford – NZEI

Liam is the current President of NZEI Te Riu Roa.  He has a keen interest in politics that started at university, stemming from a strong belief in the power of public education to transform lives, and believes that it is the role of the Government to provide it. Liam sees New Zealand facing huge levels of inequality and believes that education is the way to close that gap.