Tēnā koutou katoa. Welcome. It’s a pleasure to be here today to talk about my first Budget as Education Minister.

I am honoured to be here with so many people dedicated to ensuring young New Zealanders get the best education and the best opportunity to be successful. Your passion and drive can literally change the course of lives. You can inspire our future leaders, entrepreneurs, explorers and artists with what you do every day.

I want to acknowledge my ministerial colleagues Louise Upston and Tim Macindoe who will be working closely with me in the months to come on ensuring we have an education system that delivers young New Zealanders who can read, write, do maths, be digitally fluent, are healthy and well rounded.

A budget for growth meeting the needs of a growing, diverse nation

We need to be prepared to invest in a growing education system, both in terms of population and diversity.

New Zealand’s population has been growing at a high rate, reflecting the country’s strong economic performance. More New Zealanders are having children, more New Zealanders are choosing to stay here or are coming home, and others are coming to our shores seeking a better life. Part of the Government’s investment in education this Budget responds to this growth, funding more teachers and more learning.

Part of this Budget is also about responding and investing in a more diverse New Zealand. We know that with a more diverse country it is important that we invest in language.

We also know that by investing early and in a more targeted way we can make a larger difference to children and young people. The Government is taking a social investment approach across a range of social services including education. In education, by providing more targeted funding to those children who have more complex education or social needs, we can reduce barriers to learning and improve the lives of young New Zealanders.

The Education Budget also needs to be understood in the context of the rest of the Budget and investment over several years, where there are significant investments to assist some of our most vulnerable children in terms of health and social services. When we deliver free doctors’ visits and we assist with social housing this can help young people learn more.

Budget figures – the overall package

So let’s look at the numbers.

This is a significant Budget for education. It sees the largest injection of new money into education since this Government took office in 2008, of nearly $1.5 billion dollars over four years. It shows just how committed we are to the transformative work that’s already taking place and how invested we are in improving the lives of children and young people.

Budget 2017 sees $1.1 billion in new operating funding over the next four years and $392.4 million in capital funding.

This investment brings the annual Vote Education funding to the highest level ever at $11.6 billion in 2017/18 – up by around 41% from 2008/09.

Funding for early learning

For our youngest learners in early learning, Budget 2017 provides new funding to support the growing number of children starting their education before school. We have seen a significant lift in the number of children participating in early learning as part of the previous Better Public Service challenge.

This is really important as we know that children get the best start to their education when they’re in quality early learning.

So Budget 2017 provides $350.5 million in operating funding over four years, plus an extra $74.3 million in 2016/17.

But what is very significant about the funding this year is the next figure. Budget 2017 provides $35.5 million over four years for early learning providers with high numbers of children from benefit-dependent households.

Social Investment theory in practice

This is about what is at the heart of the Government’s social investment programme – the idea that we can do a much better job of identifying and responding to needs in the community. We have particularly focused on using and understanding the data around disadvantage, so that we can put our resources to their best effect.

One of the key lessons from this work has been that there are three risk factors which are strongly correlated with poor educational achievement and life outcomes for children later in their lives. These factors are:

whether a child has ever been notified to Child, Youth and Family whether a child has been stood down or suspended from school, and whether a child has spent more than 50% of their life in households supported by welfare.

Children are much more likely to have poorer quality lives, where they have more than one risk factor. For example,

a young person who has no risk factors and achieves less than NCEA Level 2 will cost the taxpayer on average $13,500 in welfare and corrections expenses between the ages of 18 and 25 a young person with two risk factors and less than NCEA Level 2 will cost the taxpayer $57,600 on average, and a young person with three risk factors and less than NCEA Level 2 will cost the taxpayer on average $82,900.

 Although we in Government often talk about ‘social costs’ and boil these down to financial numbers, it’s important not to lose track of what these figures stand for.  They’re not just dollars and cents in the Government’s books; they are measures of misery. They represent dramatically narrowed opportunities and lower-quality lives for our young people. Our investments are squarely aimed at widening opportunities and improving life outcomes.

In Budget 2016, we took the first steps in better targeting our education resources by introducing the Targeted At Risk Grant, which gave schools additional funding for each child who had spent significant proportions of their lives in benefit-dependent households. This Budget, we are continuing and extending this model to early childhood.

$35.5 million will go to around 2000 services out of around 4,400 licenced services. Those services will be able to use this new money for activities that improve opportunities for children at risk of under-achievement. This could include hiring more teachers, providing transport to and from services, more professional learning and development for staff, supporting the service to be part of a Community of Learning, increasing the time staff can spend talking to parents about their children’s progress or reducing fees for low-income families.

In total the increases will bring spending on early childhood education subsidies to around $2 billion per year in 2020/21.

Increased funding for schools

Moving along the education pathway to schools.

Budget 2017 responds to growing school rolls with $170.6 million to meet growing demand for primary education and $227.8 million to meet the growing demand for secondary education.

I am very pleased to confirm that all state and state-integrated schools will receive a universal increase in their operations grant funding this year. All schools will receive a 1.3% increase to help address cost pressures.

And, I have more good news. On top of the universal increase to operations grant funding, we are also continuing to target additional funding for schools with students at greater risk of not achieving due to disadvantage. We are increasing the funding rate for the Targeted At Risk Grant component by an additional 2.67% bringing the total increase for this component of the operational grant to 4 per cent.

Overall we are adding an extra $60.5 million over four years to operations grant funding.

All this builds on the spending on operational grants in 2016 which saw around $1.42 billion distributed to schools across the country.

Intervening earlier and more effectively

Learning Support is another area of funding where we’re introducing a social investment approach - identifying and responding to learning needs earlier. Put simply, if you do poorly in school in your first years, you are very likely to do poorly later on. We want to intervene earlier to deal with issues – such as behaviour problems - that can make it difficult to learn, so that all children have the best chance of success.

Through Budget 2017, we are taking steps to shift our efforts earlier in children’s lives, so that we can have a better chance of putting them onto positive and sustainable achievement paths:

We will be investing $4.2 million to introduce a specialised Incredible Years programme for parents and teachers of children aged 2-5 who are autistic. These children often have behaviours such as hyperactivity, inattention, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, sleep disturbances, aggression, and self-injury. Incredible Years is a well-established and evidence-based programme which helps to prevent, reduce, and treat behavioural and emotional issues in young children. As already announced we will be spending $6 million to introduce the international ABC and Beyond programme in a selection of early learning services, to identify and resolve speech language difficulties in pre-schoolers. Speech language problems early in life make it harder for children to learn. ABC and Beyond brings speech language therapists together with early childhood teachers, to train them to recognise speech language issues and use teaching practices to respond. The speech language therapists will also be able to provide specialist help, where this is required. We will be expanding the Ministry of Education’s early intervention and severe behaviour services at the cost of $34.7 million over four years, to provide assistance to an additional 1,000 children a year, primarily aged 3 to 8.

Because the Government believes strongly in effectiveness and evidence-based policy, funding for all of these programmes has been made conditional on having robust evaluations in place, so that we can know that we are getting value for your money.

It’s important that I point out that as we start to move our efforts to earlier in children’s lives, we need to continue to provide support for those later in life with additional learning needs. In Budget 17, we are providing:

$15.5 million over four years to increase the number of students receiving five hours a week of in-class teacher aide support to 4,000 from 2018/19 and $2.9 million over four years to maintain the delivery of specialist services, including cochlear implant habilitation, early intervention services accessible format materials and increase the specialist teaching outreach service.

$18.3 million is also being provided to meet increasing demand for existing learning support services.

Investing in school property

This Government has spent the largest amount ever on school property, with more than $5 billion going into building brand new state of the art schools, school expansions, new learning spaces and roll growth classrooms, and fixing the poor state that our school buildings were in when we took office in 2008.

Overall average utilization of schools in New Zealand has dropped since 2008 despite an increase in the overall population.

We are not only investing in today’s growing communities but in future growth as well across New Zealand. In particular in Auckland we are looking 10 to 30 years ahead to ensure we’re ready and prepared for that future growth. This means the Government is getting ahead of growth, delivering 21,000 extra student places in Auckland from 2014-2021.

We are also making significant investments in other growing areas. In Budget 2016 this included around $35 million in the Waikato, $40 million in Southland and Otago, and $23 million in Tauranga and the Coromandel. These investments are funding a new school for each region, along with the expansions, redevelopments and roll growth classrooms needed to ensure our property network will meet the needs of a growing population.

Budget 2016 was a record breaking amount for capital investment under this Government. In that Budget we provided $128 million for Canterbury schools to continue the extensive rebuild and repair work following the Christchurch earthquake. It also covered the 25-year investment in five schools being built as part of a Public Private Partnership – an approach that we are not taking for the new schools being funded in this Budget.

Budget 2017 is focused on preparing for fast-growing communities and growing student numbers with significant investments in new schools and classrooms. This is particularly the case in Auckland, where much of the country’s population growth has been concentrated. The Government is also committed to modernising our school network, replacing older assets with newer, more flexible and fit-for-purpose buildings.

Budget 2017 provides $392.4 million in capital funding over the coming four years.  This will fund new teaching spaces to benefit over 7,000 children, including:

6 new schools 2 school expansions 305 classrooms 11 special education satellite units 2 special education school relocations onto a new site, and land purchases.

Supporting quality teaching and learning

So far I have talked a lot about the funding for student numbers, investing earlier to make a difference and property, but we know from the evidence that the quality of teaching and learning resources is critical for achievement. The Government has put in place policies to strengthen quality teaching and learning over successive years.

In this Budget, we are providing $5.2 million over four years to support the continuation and expansion of the innovative, employment-based Teach First New Zealand initial teacher education programme. Teach First New Zealand has been particularly effective in providing graduates with high-demand skills in subjects such as maths and chemistry, and placing them in schools with some of the biggest achievement challenges.

The Teach First New Zealand expansion builds off other steps we are taking to ensure a sufficient supply of qualified teachers.  These include:

lifting the moratorium on new teacher education programmes from January 2018, $2 million over two years for the Education Council to create an induction and mentoring programme for eligible provisionally certified teachers, to convert up to 700 teachers to gain full certification, and $9 million over four years announced in September 2016 to boost the number of teachers in high-demand subjects and locations.

Strengthening Māori education and improving Te Reo resources

I am also pleased to announce that, through Budget 2017, the Government is also investing $7.6 million over four years to provide more curriculum resources for Māori-medium education.

Around 180,000 young New Zealanders are participating in Maori-medium or Maori language education, and it is important that students and teachers have the resources to give them choices and support their achievement.

Supporting our official languages is incredibly important, and it’s been promising to see the increasing numbers of students taking the opportunity to learn te reo Maori, or even to study in full immersion.

Budget 2017 also provides $1.7 million over four years to maintain the provision of support to Boards of Trustees of Kura Kaupapa Māori by Te Rūnanga Nui o Ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori and Ngā Kura ā Iwi o Aotearoa.  

English for Speakers of Other Languages

We also have a growing and diverse school population with a whole host of languages and dialects being spoken in classrooms up and down the country.

We recognise the extra support that students who don’t have English as their first language need to succeed in New Zealand, to prosper and contribute to society.

Budget 2017 provides $9.4 million over two years to support schools to receive English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) funding.

Strengthening the system

Finally, as student numbers and our education system grows, it is important that the Government has policies and institutions in place to assure quality and value for money.

Through Budget 2017, we are putting extra resources in to underpin the performance of the system, including:

$5.5 million over four years to allow the Education Review Office to keep pace with a rapidly growing and evolving system $8 million over three years to improve the Ministry of Education’s ability to plan for future school investments, and $9.8 million over two years to allow the Ministry to provide further support to schools and greater oversight of the early learning sector.

That $8 million to increase the Ministry’s planning is important. Whilst we have invested $5 billion in school property, we do need to continue to improve the Ministry’s planning for growth.

Future-proofing education

This is a Budget that provides significant investment in education, both for the growing number of children and young people and the diverse nature of the population.

The change in our approach to funding reflects the changes not only in society as a whole, but within education too. We have seen huge changes to the education landscape in the past nine years.

We now have 197 Communities of Learning across the country with schools, early childhood education services and tertiary providers all working together to lift achievement. To provide a personalised pathway for the children and young people in their Community, so they transition smoothly from one part of the education system to another. So they can benefit from the best teaching practices and methods available. Communities of Learning are also changing the career pathways for teachers, offering new opportunities for those wanting to climb the ladder but stay in the classroom.

We have just seen the biggest reform to education in thirty years pass into law with the Education (Update) Amendment Act.  This opens up new possibilities for schools through cohort entry and Communities of Online Learning. There will be further consultation before Communities of Online Learning come into operation, but the idea that a child in rural Bluff could learn Mandarin, or a teenager in Waverley, Taranaki learning coding as part of an online class is fantastic.

And it’s important that our education system does keep changing, preparing young people for the future workplace. I’m really concerned that in just a couple of decades a number of jobs that exist now simply won’t be there anymore. Young New Zealanders need to be prepared for a modern, digitally-rich economy.

So we need to make sure that our education system is preparing students for those jobs, that it is future-focussed and that our curriculum, practices and learning spaces are all fit for the 21st Century.

We will achieve this in a number of ways, including the recent passing of the Education (Update) Amendment Act, the Funding Review, the integration of digital technology into the curriculum, the modernisation of learning spaces, new pathways for teachers, the new Better Public Service challenge focusing on maths and writing, better use of data and taking a social investment approach to education.

Concluding remarks

I’m pleased that with this Budget we have been able to develop our social investment approach to make a real difference to children’s lives at a much earlier stage. To have that impact before it’s too late and to give them and their families a better future, a future of opportunity.

This Government wants the best for every child. Our continued increase in funding for education demonstrates our commitment to every young New Zealander, no matter who they are or where they are.

Education is a key driver to success, and ensuring that every child has the best opportunity to achieve, no matter their background, is very important.

Budget 2017 is about continuing to deliver for a growing and diverse nation. We are also delivering more than ever for disadvantage through investments in behavioural services, increasing oral language skills and targeted funding for schools and early learning.

Thank you very much for attending today’s forum and lock up. I really appreciate the work that you do and I look forward to working with you in the coming months.

Thank you.

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