Teaching the basics brilliantly

Our education system is failing too many children. National will make sure schools are teaching the basics brilliantly, so every child has the opportunity to succeed.

The state of education in New Zealand has been in decline for the last 30 years. Just 20 per cent of Year 8 students are meeting curriculum expectations for science, 35 per cent for writing, and 45 per cent for maths.

A recent pilot of NCEA literacy and numeracy standards revealed two-thirds of high school students failed to reach the minimum level the OECD says is necessary for success in further learning, life, and work.

The ineffectiveness of our education system is most pronounced in low-income areas, with just two per cent of students attending decile one schools able to pass a basic writing test, and just a quarter up to standard for reading.

Our Teaching the Basics Brilliantly plan will ensure all kids have the knowledge and skills they need in reading, writing, maths and science to set them up for success.
Under National, parents will know if their kids are doing well or, more importantly, if they’re falling behind. It’s not acceptable to allow children to fall behind without anyone noticing or taking action to help them catch up.

An hour each on reading, writing, and maths every day

National will require all primary and intermediate schools to spend an average of an hour a day on reading, an hour a day on writing, and an hour a day on maths.

There is currently too much variation between how much time different schools spend teaching the basics. This inconsistency embeds inequalities that disadvantage the most vulnerable children and holds back those who could be extended.

This is about priorities. If we continue to allow children to reach high school without mastering the basics, we’re just setting them up for failure.

Minimum requirements for what schools must teach every year in reading, writing, maths and science

National will rewrite the curriculum to include clear requirements about the specific knowledge and skills primary and intermediate schools will need to cover for each school year in reading, writing, maths and science.

Achievement has been declining for 30 years. One reason is that the New Zealand Curriculum is far too loose. Instead of clearly setting out what children should be learning and when, it focusses on "key competencies" which are vague, hard to measure, and impractical to report.

Under National, the curriculum will set out the non-negotiable set of knowledge and skills children will need to be taught each year.

Regular standardised assessment and clear reporting to parents

National will standardise assessment across schools in reading, writing, and maths. School will be required to measure each child’s progress against the curriculum at least twice a year using the same robust assessment tool.

National will also require regular reporting, in a consistent format, so parents receive a clear and detailed understanding of how their child’s education is progressing, where they might need more help, and where they can be extended.

Parents have a right to know how their child’s education is going. We can’t expect to turn around declining achievement if we’re not even willing to measure how children are progressing and report it to parents.

Better training and more tools to support teachers

National will introduce an exit exam for teaching graduates to demonstrate expertise in reading, writing, maths and science instruction, and require existing teachers to undertake professional development in teaching the basics.

If we want to improve student outcomes, we must invest in our teaching workforce. The evidence shows some teachers schedule less class time for basics like maths because they lack the confidence to teach them. That’s unacceptable.

Teachers have been let down by a system which clearly hasn’t prioritised training them to teach the basics brilliantly.

National’s Teaching the Basics Brilliantly plan will set every child in New Zealand up for success and restore excellence to the heart of the education system.

You can read the full policy here.