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Parata: Hutt Valley Primary Science Education Network

Hon Hekia Parata

Minister of Education

10 February 2014 Speech
Embargoed until 3.30pm - Check content against delivery

Speech to the Hutt Valley Primary Science Education Network

Thank you Mayor Wallace for your kind introduction; and thank you also Dr Caroline Seelig, I am very pleased to be able to join you for the launch of the Hutt Valley Primary Science Education Network.

I congratulate Open Polytechnic and Hutt City Council on their contribution to nurturing science in schools.

I know all of you here today will agree with me when I say we cannot underestimate how important science and innovation will be for the future of New Zealand.

Our Government is committed to supporting our valuable, and valued, science teachers to help New Zealand students learn and achieve. That’s important for our economy, and it’s important for New Zealand.

• We are a small country, with a history shaped by resourcefulness and innovation

• We must make up for size with smarts.

• We must out-think our competitors.

• We must be able to turn clever ideas into commercially successful products that we can sell to the world.

• We must attract overseas businesses to use our expertise.

To do this, we need a skilled and qualified workforce that meets the demands of business and industry; that adapts to new and changing technologies. We need entrepreneurs, innovators and inventors.

So since we are serious about ensuring a prosperous future for all New Zealanders, then we must ensure our young people have the best possible opportunity to achieve educational success.

Today I would like to share the next steps in our Education Plan for 2014. In doing so I will touch on the critical role that quality teaching has to play in raising achievement; and the importance of maths and science as foundational skills in building our economy.

Education is a subject that’s dear to my heart and head – and indeed yours, as parents, teachers, school leaders, city leaders, future employers and business associates of the generation of young New Zealanders who are coming through our education system today.

As you know I’ve been the Education Minister for a little over two years.

I have been around the education sector for many years and have had a lifelong interest in education. I am the daughter of teachers, the sister of teachers and as such, not only do I have the utmost respect for the profession – and we have some of the best teachers in the world - but I am also passionate about education, about what a good education did for me, and what it can do for our young people.

We have an education system that is in the top half in the world. That has not happened by accident, and nor will it continue without attention. It is successful for most, with our best students being right up there with the best in the world, but it has not been successful for all, and we are focused on ensuring that we lift up those who have been falling behind, while also pushing those who are doing well to do even better.

To do this, we must meet the needs of all students, and enable each and every one to fulfil their potential in education and in life. We must focus our attention on the potential of our children and the importance of effective teaching in realising that potential. Such an approach requires that we build our education system and the curriculum around the student, rather than the student having to fit the system.

Our Government has a comprehensive, successful, and sustainable education plan. Our education plan focuses on raising achievement for five out of five young New Zealanders. It values the voices and aspirations of parents, and it is devoted to strengthening, recognising, and celebrating the profession while also using taxpayer funds to wisely invest in infrastructure, a modern learning environment, and digital technology. We want every New Zealand child to get a better education so they can be successful here at home as well as globally competitive, whether based here in New Zealand or living overseas.

When compared to other OECD (and non-OECD) countries, New Zealand has consistently had the largest disparity between our high and low achieving students. A series of recent reports has painted a worrying picture of a long slow decline in some key areas when New Zealand students are compared with their overseas counterparts.

Maths and science outcomes are prominent in these findings. Studies have identified stagnation and decline occurring in the important years of primary and early secondary schooling.

We must do better and raise the quality of learning and achievement across the board. We must do this in ways that are sustainable and future focused. Doing this requires whole of system improvement.

$359 million investment

The evidence is clear. The two in-school factors that have the greatest effect on raising achievement are the quality of teaching and the quality of leadership.

The major new investment that the Prime Minister announced last month reflects this best evidence. It also follows the best practice in the education systems around the world trying to ensure that all children get a great education in their education system. It is what our education professionals are telling me when I am in schools almost every week of the school year.

The 359 million dollar investment for teaching and leadership career pathways will create four new teaching and leadership roles in schools:

• 250 Executive Principals who will work with, support, mentor and lead a community of schools;

• 1000 Expert Teachers, who will work with that community of schools, whose teaching practice, quality learning, and rich, deep, and engaging curriculum knowledge and practice will be shared with a range of schools;

• 5000 Lead Teachers with exemplary classroom practice who are willing to share this in open classrooms so that other teachers can learn; and,

• Around 100 Change Principals who can go into the schools that are struggling the most, and turn those schools around.

These roles will recognise and use talent where it’s needed most and will be implemented from next year to support communities of schools across the country. While our intent is clear, I have asked the Secretary of Education to chair a representative group from the profession, including unions, to work on the design features, to ensure that we get this right. The new investment also includes a $10 million Teacher Innovation Fund, which will enable team-based, teacher-led research and development at a practical level, working within schools or across groups of schools.

We know from the best evidence that professionals learn best from each other and they learn best where they are operating in situations that are practical and realistic and that they face every day. We know that there are outstanding teachers and principals in our education system.

We must ensure that what are currently pockets of exemplary practice are spread and deepened across the system so that its best features become the experience of every child. We want to make sure that their best practice can become common practice.

We are resourcing collaboration within, between, and across schools; creating career pathways that give teachers and principals further and better professional options; raising the status and profile of the profession; and keeping, growing, and attracting the best and brightest into it. That is what our new major education investment is built and funded to deliver, and we will work with the profession to ensure that we have the design right so that we can meet the achievement challenges of ensuring that five out of five of our children and young people can be successful at school, and that we get them on to a pathway to realising their potential and living the lives they want for themselves and their families.

The cross sector forum that I set up nearly two years ago has helped create a better more productive set of relationships that underpins the work that needs to be done to get the shift and lift in the system critical to a better education for all our young people, better career development and opportunities for the profession, and better more sustainable outcomes for our country.

This more collaborative approach is essential in everything we do. Collaborations such as the one we are celebrating today, the Hutt Valley Primary Science Education Network, have great potential to improve science education outcomes.

Research undertaken by the Ministry of Education shows that science community engagement and strengthening the links between schools and science experts is an important feature of high quality science education.

Science and Math

As part of the Government’s commitment to improving outcomes in science education, Minister Steven Joyce and I recently announced the “Science and Society” project.

This project represents a unique joint venture between Government and the science sector to lift engagement and achievement in science education across New Zealand.

The objectives of the project are to:

• increase the science, technology, engineering and maths skills of young people to meet the needs of twenty-first century life and the labour market, and

• improve science literacy across the population

The exciting endeavour we are launching here today in Hutt Valley is a great example of how the education and science sectors can work together to increase scientific literacy.

Thanks to much stronger data, including National Standards results, we know where we can better target our resources. Last year I announced a $10.5 million targeted investment to accelerate Mathematics and Science teaching and learning. These resources will be firmly targeted where the need is greatest - and data helps us do that.

To support schools we will be investing this money over four years, to fund the expansion of two maths programmes that we know are currently demonstrating positive outcomes for students in Years 1 to 8:

These are:

• Accelerated Learning in Mathematics (ALiM) programme ($5.57m).

• Best Evidence Synthesis (BES) Exemplar 1 programme ($1.5m).

These programmes specifically support accelerated learning and inquiry in maths.

We know from recent evaluations that the ALiM programme is showing that we can accelerate achievement in maths for those children who are struggling. From your experience you will know that both teachers and children benefit from this intensive programme.

We are also investing more resources in a programme (known as the BES Exemplar 1) that provides coaching for teachers to increase their knowledge of maths and their understanding of how to teach this important area.

Our aim is to lift the maths confidence and teaching skills by developing mathematics expertise in every school. We will be closely monitoring the programmes to assess where there is scope for further expansion over time.

Findings from the National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA) and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) reports on science were released at the end of last year.

As you are probably aware, these showed an overall decline in the achievement levels of New Zealand’s young people in science. This is why collaborations such as the Hutt Valley Primary Science Education Network are more important than ever.

We know that primary school students’ knowledge of science is mostly gained from listening to teachers - rather than through their own active investigations.

And, while teachers of primary school students say they enjoy teaching science, there are many who feel less confident with teaching this subject.

We know that quality teaching and strong leadership in schools help boost student achievement and we are committed to supporting our teachers.

We have introduced a range of initiatives and tools that will help both teachers and their students to develop better learning outcomes across the science curriculum.

New Zealand needs its children to remain naturally curious and interested in science - and to see it as part of their everyday lives.

That is why our Government is committed to spending almost $3 million dollars over the next two years to boost science learning in classrooms, and support for teachers’ professional learning across the science curriculum.

We are also establishing up to seven new Learning and Change Networks with a dedicated science focus at a cost of $1m over 3 years.

Learning and Change Networks will involve up to 70 schools, and will encourage leaders, parents, whānau and iwi to work together to identify what their students need to improve their achievement.

Each network will identify a student achievement challenge in relation to science, and will be supported to meet that challenge.

Those of you working in schools may have already seen the new ‘Connected’ series resources, which were sent to schools late last year.

The Connected series is a literacy, mathematics, science and technology instructional reading series for Year 4–8 students.

This year’s Connected resources now include additional online material, as well as teacher support materials which provide background information on science concepts for teachers, and ideas for classroom activities.

Connected 2014 will be available to schools later this year.

In addition to these initiatives, the Ministry has established a Science Leadership and Coordination Role in 2014. The purpose of this role is to explore ways in which to improve the range and quality of real-life, hands-on science education opportunities for our students.

The role will also encompass working with school leaders, teachers and the science community to understand the purpose of science education for today’s young people and New Zealand’s economic future.

We are really committed to supporting our valuable, and valued, science teachers to help New Zealand students learn and achieve. As we know, quality teaching and strong leadership in schools are critical factors in raising achievement.

Strengthening and valuing the profession

The major new investment of $359 million is part of a quality teaching agenda that is already well in progress under our Government. It includes the ministerial cross-sector forum I referred to earlier which engages leaders from 30 peak bodies, professional and unions, iwi and Pasifika, academics, and business people. In that forum, many ideas are challenged, interrogated, and often adopted.

We have made some great strides together and are engaged in transforming the New Zealand Teachers Council into a 21st century body, the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand, EDUCANZ. This new body will meet the needs of 21st century teaching and learning challenges. I propose to introduce legislation to give effect to that.

We are lifting the standard of entry and quality of initial teacher education by introducing this year new postgraduate qualifications.

We are reviewing professional learning and development for the compulsory school sector.

We are hosting the international summit of the teaching profession here in Wellington at the end of March. We expect to host Ministers of Education from all around the world. At the same time, we are hosting education festivals in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch to highlight school best practice to each other, to parents, and to the community, and to celebrate what is happening in our schools.

We are having the inaugural Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards in June this year.

All of these together comprise a quality teaching agenda to strengthen and support the teaching profession. We all know the value of a great teacher. I think everyone can think of at least one teacher who had a real impact on their time at school. I certainly can. In fact, I can think of at least six! The first teachers to come to mind are my parents – my Mother at the Early Childhood level and my Father, a secondary school teacher. Both of them strongly believed that my brothers and sisters and I should be equipped with a good quality education – and they ensured that happened!

A teacher that stands out from my days at Ngata Memorial College in Ruatoria is Mrs Fitzpatrick. She was a fantastic English teacher! She encouraged my love of reading, broadened my taste in literature, and bolstered my confidence when other kids thought I was pretty nerdy!

Just as Mrs Fitzpatrick inspired my love of reading, there are teachers all around the country inspiring kids to do great things in math, science and other learning areas.

It’s so important that we recognise and celebrate the teaching profession and the life-long impact that teachers have on their students’ lives.

Today, as a lead into the Festivals of Education being held in March, we are launching a new website -Inspired by U. It is designed to recognise and celebrate teachers who have made a difference to their students. Members of the public are invited to create their own digital postcards, sharing their teacher story online, at

I encourage you to recognise your own inspirational educator on the website, as I have already done.

I am very fortunate that I can remember a range of teachers who inspired me throughout all my years of education. I’d like that to be the experience of every young New Zealander. We know that by raising, recognising, and strengthening the value, profile, and status of our education profession, it must lead to deploying best-quality teaching practice and best-quality leadership practice across our 2,500 schools, so that all of our children can have the opportunity to succeed, to have a better education, and to go on to have a better life.

Partnership schools

Part of our drive to raise achievement for five out of five kids involves giving parents more options.

Last month the first of five Partnership Schools | Kura Hourua opened in Auckland. These schools are a small but potentially important part of involving communities, increasing flexibilities and tailoring education provision to the needs of students who have or are falling behind.

The five partnership schools that will open this year have indicated a focus on Māori and Pasifika kids - and they will provide a necessary alternative to an education system that has let these kids down. Two are in Northland, an area where our education system is struggling to meet the needs of Māori in particular.

My expectation, driven by the expressed commitment at the Waitangi meeting of the Iwi Leadership Forum, is that iwi will get behind these schools and others that will open in 2015. I have had similar very positive feedback from Pasifika communities. Indeed, the opening enrolments at all of the five schools attest to the support that this option has for some parents.

Parental engagement

Alongside these initiatives we also have a programme of work addressing the out-of-school effects on student learning and achievement. We know that the 2 out-of-school contributions that make the biggest difference to student achievement are the strength of parental engagement, and the expectations that communities hold for and of the student.

In Budget 2013, provision was made for a substantial increase in the funding for NZSTA to boost its capability and capacity, and to ensure that training for new trustees, and tools to assist, are readily available.

This built on the provision that we passed in to law last year that set out for the first time the statutory purpose of boards of trustees which is to do all in their power to ensure that every student at the school is able to attain his or her highest possible standard in educational achievement. In addition, there are several programmes with parental and whānau engagement components, for example, Ka Hikitia, Positive Behaviour for Learning, Building on Success and cross-agency initiatives such as Social Sector Trials and Children’s Teams.

Last week I announced the Taskforce on Regulations Affecting School Performance which will free up schools to focus more on raising student achievement, and identify regulations that are obstructing this.

This Taskforce will bring together some of New Zealand’s foremost education practitioners on regulation, governance, and education. It is my expectation that the Taskforce will recommend changes to existing practices, rules and regulations in order to raise student achievement.

I am also looking forward to the report of the Parliamentary Select Committee of Education and Science which is right now considering an inquiry into engaging parents in the education of their children.

Public metrics

Enabling families, whānau and communities to better engage with student progress is critical to raising student achievement. To understand what works for our students, families and communities need to be given the information necessary. We also know that many parents and whānau want to be more engaged with students’ learning, but do not always know the right questions to ask.

That is why we have implemented the Public Achievement Information (PAI) framework as one of the first initiatives of my tenure as Minister of Education. This framework presents the rich data drawn not only from our National Standards assessment programme, but from other sources such as Ngā Whanaketanga Rumaki, NCEA, in ways that support conversations about education in our communities. Parents, families, whānau and communities now have access to local, regional and national breakdowns of attendance and achievement, communicating in a simple, visual style to improve accessibility.

We have found that the Public Achievement Information is facilitating conversations about the state of education, and helping communities to identify areas of improvement needed to ensure five out of five students are enjoying success in education.

We have worked hard to get a year on year improvement in students leaving school with meaningful qualifications. In the past two years we have worked in very targeted ways with schools to raise achievement, particularly of those groups that have not fared as well. I am optimistic that there will be positive results for this year’s school leavers and a further improvement against the Government’s BPS target for 18 year olds achieving NCEA.

ECE participation

We know from New Zealand and international research that the early childhood years are vital to a child’s development and their future ability to learn. This Government has set an ambitious Better Public Service target for early childhood education that in 2016, 98 per cent of children starting school will have participated in quality early childhood education.

This target recognises that each child's education experience will be better for a stronger early start that can be provided through ECE.

The latest Ministry of Education figures, show that the rate is now almost 96 per cent with 1,640 more children participating in early childhood education than at the same time last year.

Senior Pathways

At the senior secondary school we have invested in a number of flexibilities around funding and timetabling that support students to make choices of pathways. The Pathways help students plan and guide themselves through their learning-work journey, and enable educators to better design their curriculum and assist their students on that journey.

The Pathways give employers greater confidence that students are better prepared and have the learning skills that they require. There are five Pathways for students Primary Industries, Construction and Infrastructure, Manufacturing and Technology, Service Industries and Social and Community Services.

Modern learning environments

We want to ensure we are supporting children’s learning needs in a technologically savvy environment. The Government is making a significant investment of nearly $700 million in digital learning infrastructure which includes: providing fibre connections to schools, a managed network – the Network for Learning, and schools network upgrades.

The investment also includes providing software licensing for schools, assisting with laptops for teachers and principals, and professional development. This infrastructure will make it easier for schools, students, parents, iwi, communities and business to connect and collaborate, giving all our young people a better education and raising achievement for all.

Currently, 212 schools have signed agreements and these communities will be looking forward to being connected in the near future. All schools will be invited to connect to the managed network by the end of 2016.

Current and emerging technologies play an important enabling role in creating new learning opportunities and ways of learning. These technologies increase motivation, engagement and achievement and foster innovative ways of working collaboratively.

Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye is working through a range of areas with the 21st Century Learning Reference Group. Technology, and digital learning, are part of our modernising of the education system to raise achievement for all our children and young people.

The goal is that schools have access to affordable, safe, quality fast connections, as well as rich educational content and services. We want schools, students and teachers to be more connected to each other to better share ideas and best practice.


There has been a lot of talk about education in the last couple of weeks. Our Government’s commitment is to raise the learning and achievement of all our children and young people.

The range of initiatives we have implemented, as outlined today, to better engage with parents, ensure achievement data is readily available, value and strengthen the teaching profession; and support 21st Century learning environments demonstrates our commitment to this goal. Supporting schools to raise student achievement in math and science is an integral part of our plan. As is celebrating the profession, with initiatives such as the Inspired by U website.

I am very proud that our Government opened this year with a continued and emphatic focus on education. Our major new investment is part of an overall education plan that we have been delivering for the past 5 years, and demonstrates the fresh ideas we have going forward.

I hope you are excited as I am about the system changes taking place this year – change that will enable all students to achieve education success and shape the world of the future. Knowledge, qualifications and skills are keys that open the door to better jobs, better incomes, and better life opportunities. This leads to improved economic and social outcomes for New Zealanders and in turn a more prosperous New Zealand!


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