The often tense relationship between Education Minister Anne Tolley and secondary school teachers had a respite today when the minister announced plans to reduce teacher workloads.
At a Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) conference in Wellington this afternoon, Mrs Tolley said a requirement for 10 per cent of internally assessed student work to be submitted for moderation would be removed from next year.
About 154,000 units of student work had been moderated this year, and the changes would drop that number to about 100,000, Mrs Tolley told the conference.
"Reducing the number of samples of student work requested from schools will contribute to a reduction in the teacher workload associated with the delivery of NCEA and increase the time available for NZQA moderators to support teachers."
Mrs Tolley also said fees would be waived for moderation workshops in 2012, and that a further 1420 places would be made available for teachers to attend the workshops.
The announcements were greeted with applause from the delegates, and appeared to ease some of the usual strain between the union and Government.
President Robin Duff said there were always going to be differences between government policy and the union, but that there had been positive signs in Mrs Tolley's address.
"We don't always see eye to eye, in fact very often we don't see eye to eye at all," Mr Duff said.
"But we always like to maintain, through all political parties and governments, at least a reasonably pleasant relating and positive discussion situation, and I think today suggested that there were some good things to come from that approach."
The changes to the moderation process were likely to make a significant difference for teachers, Mr Duff said.
"It's been very nice to have her acknowledging that there are some issues associated with NCEA in particular, and the implementation that have been carried through."
However, there were other areas where the union continued to have concerns, particularly around class sizes, which it has been fighting to reduce for years.
Mr Duff said the benefits of smaller classes were obvious, but the added staffing costs meant the Government was not enthusiastic about addressing the situation.
"We'll keep working on that ... we'll hope to at least assemble some more evidence to convince with good argument rather than just by noise."
Another point of contention raised at the conference was the issue of current system of quarterly funding, which Mrs Tolley said she had no plans to change.