The $359 million IES plan, as originally presented, was an inflexible, top down managerial approach to running schools and particularly worrying was the lack of any answer to address the real causes of children not succeeding at school.

Through a Joint Initiative between NZEI and the Ministry of Education (MoE), we succeeded in remodelling the IES to become more child-centred, flexible and to include special needs education, Maori and Pasifika students and early childhood education (ECE).

It was a year where NZEI took legal action on behalf of underpaid school support staff. More than six years ago the Department of Labour’s Pay and Employment Equity unit found school support staff were underpaid because they were in a workforce that was primarily female.

Our action followed other pay equity cases such as in the aged care sector.  Within a week of the NZEI claim being lodged, the government announced it would set up a Working Party with unions and employers to begin negotiations over pay parity.

During 2015, growing concern about underfunding in early childhood education and its consequential effect on quality in early childhood education became a big issue. It was becoming clear the government’s “quantity over quality” approach was starting to bite into the community kindergarten sector.

After years of struggling to maintain 100 per cent qualified teachers following a government decision in 2010 to no longer fully fund qualified teaching, around 85 community kindergartens in the Wellington region were looking at drastic cost-cutting measures such as laying off qualified teachers.

A significant achievement in the sector this year has been... the reshaping the government’s flawed Communities of Schools model into a more flexible, workable Communities of Learning has been a significant achievement.

While there is still much to do, we succeeded in keeping the conversation focussed on what’s best for children and ensuring children’s learning success was placed firmly at the centre of the new communities.

As a direct result of our members’ hard work and engagement, the minister and the MoE made a number of undertakings to continue to work with NZEI members to improve the Communities of Learning around early childhood education, special education, support staff and Maori and Pasifika learners as well as professional leaders and development. Members will certainly hold all parties to account. 

The issue our members were most concerned about in 2015 was... ensuring children remain at the centre of teaching and learning policy decisions underpinned concerns as the government’s reform process continued.

In 2015, there was growing concern about the government’s “system change” policies pushing towards charter schools, commercialisation, performance pay and school funding based on achievement outcomes.

Members were starting to feel the impact of a lack of funding and the push for raising participation rates over providing quality services in the early childhood sector and the continued under-funding of special-needs education.

Three education priorities for the coming year should be... ensuring all children receive quality education must remain the key priority. Currently the government’s education policies are leading to growing inequality in the education sector. We need to stop this happening. The government is planning to review the way it funds schools. Educators need to be vigilant to ensure this does not become another tool that will lead to further inequality in schooling.

There is still a lot of work to do to ensure the structure and funding of the Communities of Learning will directly benefit children. We believe we have the foundations in place to ensure this will happen but there is still considerable work to do.

Currently thousands of children who struggle at school miss out on educational opportunities because schools cannot access the resources needed to help them. That’s why NZEI is campaigning for better funding for children with special or complex learning needs.

Early childhood education is vital for children and we need to ensure that parents understand what is needed to ensure quality ECE and quality centres are given the resources they need to flourish.