Education and Training Act Updates


School Board Objectives

MoE Commentary

The Act revises the objectives for school boards of trustees to:

  • ensure school governance is underpinned by Te Tiriti o Waitangi and relevant student rights, and
  • refocus boards on a wider range of objectives so that educational achievement is no longer the only primary objective. It is instead one of four primary objectives, alongside objectives for schools to ensure the physical and emotional safety of students and staff, that they are inclusive and cater for students with differing needs and that they give effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

These changes are intended to strengthen school governance and refocus schools on what matters most for learners and their whānau.

NZSTA Commentary

What are the changes?

Section 127 of the Education and Training Act 2020 (the Act) refocuses school boards on a wider range of primary objectives, with educational achievement sitting alongside three others, each equally as important as the other. The board’s primary objectives in governing a school are to ensure that:

  • every student at the school is able to attain their highest possible standard in educational achievement
  • the school is a physically and emotionally safe place for all students and staff, gives effect to relevant student rights and takes all reasonable steps to eliminate racism, stigma, bullying, and any other forms of discrimination within the school
  • the school is inclusive of, and caters for, students with differing needs
  • the school gives effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, including by working to ensure that its plans, policies, and local curriculum reflect local tikanga Māori, mātauranga Māori, and te ao Māori; taking all reasonable steps to make instruction available in tikanga Māori and te reo Māori and achieving equitable outcomes for Māori students

What do boards need to do differently now?

In order to meet these primary objectives that board will need to govern its school taking into account any statement of national education and learning priorities (NELP) issued by the Minister under section 5 of the Act. Achievement of the NELPs would form part of the board’s strategic thinking, goal setting, planning and policy making.

If applicable, commitments to the achievement of community of learning I kāhui ako challenges would also feature in the board’s goal setting and planning.

Regarding every student attaining their highest possible standard in educational achievement, the board’s obligations around the national curriculum, teaching and learning programmes, monitoring and reporting students’ progress and financial responsibilities remain.

There will be greater emphasis on boards creating a school culture that is inclusive and welcoming of all students, staff, family, whānau, visitors and members of the wider community. Board strategy and policy should encompass not only students with special learning needs, physical or mental disabilities but also new-comers to the school, frequently transitioning students and people of ethnic minority, different beliefs or sexual orientations. In fact, all should feel welcome and safe at the school.

To give effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, boards will need to build strong relationships with local hapū and iwi. Board policy should ensure that the local component of the curriculum reflects te ao Māori, Mātauranga Māori and any local iwi education plan for its children. There should be an emphasis on the importance of local history and practices. The board’s commitment to equitable outcomes for Māori students will be reflected in its goals and planning, monitoring and reporting processes.

When does this come into effect?

The revised objectives for student educational achievement, physically and emotional safety and inclusivity took effect upon enactment and are in force now. The objective relating to Te Tiriti o Waitangi will come into force on 1 January 2021. This will provide schools with more time to become familiar with the changes required under this objective and prepare to give effect to them.

Source: www.education.govt.nz: Education and Training Act 2020 – Amending school board objectives

Useful links

Ka Hikitia

Tau Mai Te Reo - Strategy for Māori Language Revitalisation

Human Rights Act 1993

New Zealand Disability Strategy

Statement of NELP – to be added when published by Minister

 

New powers for the Secretary for Education when a state of emergency, transition period or epidemic notice is in place

MoE Commentary

The Secretary for Education has new powers to act when a state of emergency or transition period is declared or an epidemic notice is in place. These powers can be found in sections 653 to 658 and include directing governing authorities of education entities to close and open for physical attendance or instruction, placing restrictions on attendance, and directing that education or instruction be provided in specified ways, such as distance learning.

NZSTA Commentary

What are the changes?

To ensure that the education sector is able to respond to future emergencies and epidemics, sections 653-658 of the Education and Training Act 2020 (the Act) provide a new set of powers for the Secretary for Education. 

These powers come into effect when a state of emergency is declared, or a transition period is notified under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002, or an epidemic notice is in place under the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006.

All education entities may be covered by a direction from the Secretary including all schools and school hostels.

The intention is to support the response to, and recovery from, an emergency or an epidemic and, at these times, the Secretary has the power to direct a school board to comply with specified requirements to:

  • close or open its school or any part of it
  • close or open its school for physical attendance or instruction, or both
  • set restrictions on the attendance of students and those working at its school, bearing in mind any relevant employment or health and safety legislation
  • comply with specified requirements for the operation, management, and control of its school
  • provide education or instruction in any specified ways e.g. distance or online learning 

The Secretary may also renew, amend, or revoke a direction while the relevant state of emergency, transition period, or epidemic notice is in force e.g. direct a school to reopen during an emergency if closure is no longer justified after consulting with the board and other relevant people. 

What do boards need to do differently now?

Boards must put any direction from the Secretary into action either immediately, on the day it is given, or on any later date that is specified in the direction.

A direction overrides every other provision of the Education and Training Act 2020 (apart from the provisions set out in sections 653 to 658).

A direction does not override the provisions of any other Act, including the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002, the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006, the Health Act 1956, and the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

A direction expires on its specified expiry date or the date on which the relevant state of emergency, transitional period, or epidemic notice ends – whichever comes first. 

When does this come into effect?

These new powers when a state of emergency, transition period or epidemic notice is in place took effect upon enactment of the Act and are in force now.

Useful links

Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002

Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006

Health Act 1956

Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

Religious instruction to become opt-in

MoE Commentary

The Act (section 58) provides that if the board of a State primary or intermediate school chooses to close their school for religious instruction to take place, then the principal must have written permission from students’ parents that they may attend  and ensure that the other, pre-existing, conditions are met.

Previously, parents and caregivers needed to write to the principal if they did not wish their child to attend religious instruction. This change ensures that children are only attending religious instruction with their parent or caregiver’s written consent.

NZSTA Commentary

What are the changes?

Section 58 of the Education and Training Act 2020 (the Act) states that a student enrolled at a State primary or intermediate school may only attend or take part in any religious instruction at the school if a parent of the student has confirmed in writing to the principal that they wish the student to do so.

This requires “opting-in”.

This change ensures that students of State primary and intermediate schools only attend religious instruction with their parent’s written consent.

For the purposes of this part of the Act, the definition of “parent” is the mother, father, or guardian of the individual.

What do boards need to do differently now?

Previously, parents needed to write to the principal if they did not wish their child to attend religious instruction.

This required “opting-out”.

In addition

A board does not have to allow religious instruction and observances. However, if it does choose to do so, it must meet all its legal obligations including complying with New Zealand’s human rights laws.  

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (NZBORA) and the Human Rights Act 1993 give all people in New Zealand the right to be free from discrimination based on their religious or non-religious beliefs and religious instruction must be done in a way that does not discriminate against anyone on these bases.

For clarification

Religious instruction is the teaching or endorsing of a particular faith. It is the non-neutral, partisan teaching of religion which supports or encourages student belief in the religion being taught. Religious instruction is not part of the New Zealand Curriculum or Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.

Religious observances are ceremonial or devotional acts of religion, such as prayers, the singing of hymns, or religious readings. Religious observances are not part of the New Zealand Curriculum or Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, and are not covered in these guidelines. 

Religious education is the neutral teaching and presentation of information about religion, sometimes in the context of studying customary and cultural practices in curriculum subjects, such as the social sciences learning area of the New Zealand Curriculum or within Te Marautanga o Aotearoa Tikanga-ā-Iwi.

When does this come into effect?

This new requirement to opt into attendance of religious instruction took effect upon enactment of the Act and is in force now.

Useful links

Guidelines on religious instruction  in state primary schools, intermediate schools  and ngā kura, May 2019

Note: The Ministry’s guidelines for primary and intermediate schools on religious instruction are being updated to reflect the change to opt-in instruction.

New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990

Human rights Act 1993

School rules (bylaws) consultation

MoE Commentary

Boards can make rules (also known as bylaws) to govern their school. These rules are given the status of law. Under the 1989 Act, there was no requirement on boards to consult before they made rules, which was inconsistent with the obligation to consult imposed on entities with comparable ability to make rules/bylaws.

Section 126 introduced a requirement for boards to consult their students (as appropriate), staff and school when making rules. As well as bringing boards into line with other entities empowered to make bylaws, the new requirement enables greater staff, student, and community engagement with key governance decisions that may significantly impact them.

What are the changes?

School boards have previously been able to make bylaws. Section 126 of the Education and Training Act 2020 introduces a new requirement that before doing so, in some cases, a board must consult its staff, students (to the extent that the board considers appropriate), and the school community. 

The school community includes:

  • The parents and whānau of students enrolled at the school
  • The Māori community associated with the school
  • The proprietors, if a state integrated school 
  • Key community groups or representatives
  • Any other group of people that would be significantly impacted by decisions made by the board
When does this come into effect?

This new requirement took effect upon enactment of the Act and is in force now.

Useful links

MoE is currently developing some guidance

 Last updated: 24 November 2020

Board code of conduct

What are the changes?

Section 166 of the Education and Training Act gives the Minister of Education power to issue a mandatory national code of conduct for board members of State and State-integrated schools. This will set out minimum standards of integrity and conduct for each member.

Before issuing a code of conduct the Minister must consult with national bodies representing the interests of boards (e.g. NZSTA) and anyone else that the Minister considers appropriate.

A code of conduct for the members of State school boards is a disallowable instrument – what does this mean?

Most of the legislation enacted each year is not made by Parliament directly. It is made by other people or bodies under powers delegated to them by Parliament. “Delegated legislation” is used to describe all types of legislation (e.g. a code of conduct for the members of State school boards) made under powers delegated by Parliament.

The Legislation Act 2012 uses the term “disallowable instrument” to describe delegated legislation that must be presented to, and can be disallowed by, the House of Representatives.

Under section 166 (4) of the Education and Training Act 2020 a code of conduct for the members of State school boards is a disallowable instrument.

What do boards need to do differently now?

There is no mandatory code for board members yet. In the meantime boards, who have not already done so, may wish to adopt a code of conduct voluntarily. An example code can be found in the NZSTA Governance framework 2018 (Policy B2)

What will happen when the Minister issues the mandatory national code of conduct for board members?

Every board member must comply with a code issued by the Minister under section 166 of the Act.

Section 167 permits a board to specify additional standards of conduct for its members. This must be done by resolution of the board. The additional standards must be consistent with the code issued by the Minister and the requirements of all legislation.

Note: Teachers holding practising certificates who are also staff representatives on a school board must follow the Teaching Council’s code of conduct. Section 168 states that if there is a conflict between standards in the two codes, then the Teaching Council’s code of conduct takes priority.

What if a board member does not comply with the code of conduct?

Boards may censure a board member (other than a principal) for any significant or persistent breach of a code issued under sections 166 and 167. This would be done by resolution in public excluded business (“in committee”) and recorded in the minutes of that meeting.

The Minister may remove a board member (other than the principal) for any significant or persistent breach of a code issued under sections 166 and 167 if the board:

  • considers the board member’s failure to comply with the code warrants their removal and
  • has presented the Minister with a written report about the board member’s failure that recommends the removal of the board member and
  • the Minister is satisfied that there is just cause* to remove the board member

The removal must be made by written notice to the board member stating the date it takes effect and the reasons for it. This notice must be copied to the board and the removal must be notified in the Gazette as soon as is practicable.

*Just cause includes misconduct, inability to perform the functions of office, neglect of duty, and breach of any of the collective duties of the board or the individual duties of members (depending on the seriousness of the breach).

When does this come into effect?

Section 166, which gives the Minister power to issue a mandatory code of conduct, is in force now. After the process to develop the code is completed a notice will be published in the Gazette which will:

  • Advise the date on which the code comes into force
  • Set out the code in full, or advise how and where copies can be obtained

Useful links

NZSTA Governance framework

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