WELLINGTON, Feb 21 - Education Minister Chris Hipkins on Wednesday announced a sweeping programme of work for Labour's first term in government, saying the school system needed to be future-proofed.

"New Zealand has an education system to be proud of, but as the way we work and live continues to rapidly change, so too do the demands on our education system," he said.

"Too many of the policy settings for the education portfolio, particularly those focused on accountability and compliance, are rooted in a 20th-century mind set."

Major parts of the proposed programme include:

  • A review of Tomorrow's Schools - the 1989 reforms that created the current self-managing school system
  • Reviewing home-based early childhood education
  • "Comprehensive" reform of school property
  • A programme of change for vocational education - including polytechnics
  • The previously announced review of the NCEA system

The Government will also hold a summit in May to get input.

"I want to work with the education system and all its participants in a more collaborative way to set the direction of travel," Hipkins said.

All parts of the programme would include explicit considerations for Maori and Pasifika students, he said.

A cabinet paper summarising the plan includes a specific timeline, with the Tomorrow's Schoolsreview's membership and terms of reference due this month and a report due by the end of the year.

Teachers union NZEI welcomed the announcement, but urged caution.

"We are generally pleased with the direction this government is taking in education," president Lynda Stuart said.

"We encourage the minister to take the time needed to undertake the reform properly."

National Party education spokesperson Nikki Kaye called on the Government to make the process a cross-party one and said the devil would be in the details.

"We have already said we would be keen to work with the Government on areas where we can get cross-party agreement, such as the 30-year plan," she said.

"The process matters and it needs to involve collaborative decision-making rather than tick-box consultations with the opposition and other stakeholders."