Speech to PPTA Conference
Hon Nikki Kaye
Speech to NZ Post Primary Teachers’ Association Te Wehengarua Annual Conference
E ngā mana, e ngā reo, rau rangatira ma, tēnā koutou katoa.
I’m delighted to be here with you today. I would like to acknowledge the kaumātua for their welcome.
I would also like to acknowledge the PPTA executive including your president Angela Roberts.
We are all here because we believe in improving the lives of young New Zealanders.
Every day I meet so many people who are passionate about education and the ability of our education system to improve the lives of young New Zealanders.
When I was appointed Associate Minister of Education, the Prime Minister gave me specific responsibility for digital literacy. One of the first conversations Minister Parata and I had was about the future of education and creating 21st century learning environments.
That is why she advocated for me to have responsibility for not only digital literacy but school property and transport as well.
A major focus of my speech today is to outline what we are doing to modernise our infrastructure to create more learning opportunities.
If we deliver technology for technology’s sake then we will have failed.
As I have said before to some of you, our vision in terms of infrastructure is that it is a platform for learning.
We start from the vision of improving learning and technology is an enabler to do that.
We want every young New Zealander to be digitally literate so that they can compete in a modern economy and earn a living that will enable them to have a good quality of life for them and their families.
I came into politics to help people and make a difference. It is an extraordinary privilege to be a Minister and be working with Minister Parata.
Every week we get to meet so many teachers, principals and parents who are committed to our education system.
Last year, I chaired a select committee inquiry into digital literacy and 21st Century learning environments. One of the great things about that select committee report was that we were able to have cross party agreement for a significant part of the report.
While there will be areas where political parties will have different views on education policy, there are a number of areas where I believe our views are very similar.
I am pleased in the area of digital literacy to be progressing initiatives that are widely received across New Zealand as positive.
However, in the area of school infrastructure generally there are many opportunities for change.
Earlier this year in the 2013 Budget, I described our vision for modern learning environments. It should not matter whether that environment is physical or online, we must do everything we can to ensure those environments are safe, connected, inspiring and collaborative.
If we look at the area of school property, last week I was pleased to announce an eight-point plan to transform the way that school property is delivered in New Zealand.
It was important to me to give the PPTA and other stakeholders a heads up about this announcement. Sometimes as a Minister it is not possible to do this, but where I can, I will do that in the future because I understand the importance of strong relationships and good communication.
The announcement last week confirmed that the Ministry of Education has established an Education Infrastructure Service which will work closely with schools on infrastructure projects.
I would like to acknowledge the Secretary of Education Peter Hughes and Acting head of this service Kim Shannon for their work in establishing the service. Kim is a great example of an outstanding public servant who has been working hard, particularly in the last 18 months, to improve the way that school property is delivered.
The purpose of the Education Infrastructure Service is to transform the way school property is delivered and better support 21st Century learning environments and improved outcomes for students.
The opportunity with school property reform is to assist in freeing up sector leaders, principals and their boards, to focus on the main business of schools – raising achievement.
The plan focuses on investing in areas of growth; helping resolve outstanding property issues faster; providing greater support for major property works; and offering a flexible range of property services to schools.
A team of senior staff will examine and resolve issues where schools are experiencing difficulty with a matter related to infrastructure.
The Ministry is also creating a fund of $300 million over six years to assist approximately 30 schools to deliver essential infrastructure and modernise their facilities.
These changes are about shifting from a one-size-fits-all approach to a system which recognises schools require different levels of assistance and support.
The Ministry will be introducing a new facilities management service, which will be an “opt-in” service.
Offering services through central procurement will use the Ministry’s size and purchasing power to reduce costs and lift service quality, and provide standardised performance expectations.
Participating in these procurement opportunities will be voluntary for schools.
The Ministry will also be able to provide assistance to support schools while they are undertaking major redevelopment projects. It will provide project management discipline and capability, and advice on best practice design and construction. This will enable schools to focus on the business of teaching and learning instead.
The Government set aside $134 million in Budget 2013 for new capacity, and recently provided $70 million of this new funding to establish three new schools and 65 additional roll growth classrooms.
The balance of the funds will be allocated as investment decisions are made.
Up to 600 new classrooms are expected to be required in Auckland schools by 2017. Planning is currently under way for 194 new classrooms and 85 replacement classrooms at 45 schools.
The approach to most roll growth schools is to redevelop and modernise at the same time in order to address cramped sites, enable whole of list cost reduction and generally improve fitness for purpose.
Our Government is proud of our commitment to invest $1 billion in reinstating the schools portfolio in Greater Christchurch and I look forward to working with Minister Parata on this very important process.
When I get out and about around the country, I meet many boards of trustees, principals and teachers who want to see improvements in the way that property is delivered.
I have had great feedback across the country on these proposals and I look forward to working hard to make sure that our students, teachers and principals are able to have better 21st Century learning environments.
As you know, our Government has prioritised schools for fibre connections so that by 2016, all schools will have access to the world of digital learning opportunities. Already 1800 schools are connected to fibre and ready for service.
This includes 750 schools connected under the Rural Broadband Initiative, and 39 remote schools that now have an improved broadband service via alternative technologies.
To ensure all teaching spaces are networked and ready for ultra-fast broadband, the School Network Upgrade Project (SNUP) is progressively upgrading the internal IT networks in schools.
Over half of all eligible schools have now been upgraded. Additional funding was provided earlier this year to accelerate this work and ensure all eligible schools will be upgraded by 2016.
I am focused on ensuring we can go as fast as we can to deliver this crucial infrastructure for you and young people.
Network for Learning
Another significant step to complete what I believe is a world-leading digital infrastructure package is the creation of a managed network.
Most of you will be aware of the recent announcement that Network for Learning has signed a contract with Telecom to provide the managed network.
Our Government has committed $211 million, over the next eight years, to deliver a funded package of fast, high-quality, connections with uncapped data to schools. By the end of 2014, 700 schools will be connected to the managed network, and 2016 will see all schools invited to connect.
I hope to announce the first schools to be connected in the next few weeks.
Combined with the investment in fibre connections to schools and SNUP, the Government’s commitment to fund schools into the managed network represents a total investment of $700 million in digital infrastructure.
N4L will also be delivering a portal as a central hub for digital learning, so that teachers and students can better connect, collaborate and create new resources. The portal will be available to all schools from February 2014.
The goal is that this portal will enable greater access to rich learning resources and services; and unite teachers, students, school administrators in a safe and collaborative environment.
Quality connections are important when you think about how much teaching time can be gained from internet services not dropping out in the middle of a lesson.
Another advantage will be the provision of more consistent sharing of education resources, such as teaching sessions, delivered to students across the country.
Network for Learning will be consulting with schools and stakeholders to procure content and services.
Again, this is not about providing infrastructure for the sake of it. The Government’s commitment to uncapped, fast, quality connections is about increasing real learning opportunities for young New Zealanders. That may be about ensuring a young child from Mangakino could now have access to reading opportunities.
21st Century Learning Reference Group
So what steps are we taking to ensure our young people are the most digitally literate in the world?
As I outlined earlier the select committee enquiry focused on recommendations on the best structures, tools and communities to ensure students and educators attain the knowledge and skills the 21st century demands of us all.
In June this year, I established the 21st Century Learning Reference Group to help me address the Select Committee’s recommendations.
The 14 member group has a wide range of expertise in education, digital technologies and innovation. They have been tasked with providing input into a high-level Learning with Digital Technologies strategy.
I feel confident the enthusiasm, knowledge and dedication of this group will help. They have told me that within the next two months they will provide me with a Learning with digital technologies strategy. The Government will consider that report and respond in due course.
Some key areas I have the group looking at include priority learners and access to devices.
Although all our students will be able to take advantage of the digital investment, our priority learners - children from Māori and Pasifika backgrounds, children from low socio-economic homes and those with special education needs - are the ones who can potentially benefit the most from our investments in technology.
Another advantage of digital technologies is that individual learning programmes can be specifically tailored to an individual’s strengths, needs and talents.
Simple technologies can transform classes from a one-size-fits-all setting, into a flexible and highly engaging environment, with learning pathways that can accommodate many different student needs.
Access to digital devices
I am currently looking at how we can ensure our priority learners have access to digital devices.
A number of schools have already implemented Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programmes, with a specific focus on ensuring equal access and improved learning outcomes for priority students.
The 21st Century Learning Reference Group will be reporting to me specifically on access to devices.
Place of schools in communities
To gain the fullest benefits from digital technologies, they need to be adopted and embraced by parents, whānau and communities. They need to use them with their children, to encourage, and engage with, what they are learning.
It’s also important that we see digital technologies being used to link students with community organisations - particularly local government, iwi and businesses.
Role of teachers
Of course, providing schools with the right digital infrastructure is just the beginning.
We need to make sure teachers, school leaders and students know how to use the technology to their best educational advantage - this is what raises student achievement.
There are many innovators in our schools, and there is also variation in teaching within and between schools.
Our challenge is to build capability right across the system, so that every leader, teacher and learner is a confident, competent user of digital technologies and is equipped and ready to embrace 21st century learning.
Teachers represent the single most powerful in-school influence on student learning and, regardless of the changes that will affect the education system in the future, we can be sure that dedicated and capable teachers will always be vital.
So we need to make sure we are putting the very best teachers in front of every class in this country.
To further support the Ministry’s existing professional development programmes, a quality teaching agenda will be implemented this year.
It will be a package of interconnected initiatives that will help lift the quality of the profession over the long term.
The Ministry of Education will be working very closely with the education sector in the development and implementation of this quality teaching work programme.
I would like to thank you all for the contribution you make.
We need to focus on a vision for education where infrastructure is an enabler for learning opportunities.
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.