Simon Collins is the Herald’s education reporter.

New Education Minister Nikki Kaye wants to see 'healthy, well-rounded' students

KEY POINTS

• New Education Minister Nikki Kaye wants kids to be "digitally fluent, healthy and well-rounded" as well as knowing the 3 Rs.

• Kids' physical and mental health will be a focus.

• New measures of student progress will be developed alongside National Standards.

• New initiatives will be unveiled to fill teacher shortages in subject areas such as maths and te reo Māori and in regions such as Auckland.

New Education Minister Nikki Kaye wants children to be "digitally fluent, healthy and well-rounded" - a much wider focus than the Government's previous emphasis on the "three Rs".

Education sector groups welcomed the new approach after years of battling former Education Ministers Anne Tolley and Hekia Parata over having to report on whether primary school children achieved national standards in reading, writing and mathematics.

"Good for her, she's listening!" said NZ Principals Federation president Whetu Cormick, who urged a wider approach when he met Kaye yesterday.

Post-Primary Teachers Association president Jack Boyle, who met Kaye on Monday, said it was "heartening" that she was responding to concerns that the standards were forcing schools to "narrow" the curriculum.

In an interview promised when she took over the portfolio last week, Kaye said: "I want us to be a country where every young person can read, write, do maths and be digitally fluent, healthy and well-rounded."

She said students needed digital skills to cope with technological changes that might wipe out many of today's jobs in their lifetimes.

She has also been attuned to physical and mental health issues as Minister for Youth and in her personal life. She has twice done the Coast to Coast multisport race across the Southern Alps and in March she ran, swam and cycled around Motutapu and Rangitoto Islands.

Nikki Kaye ran, swam and biked around Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands in March. Photo / File
Nikki Kaye ran, swam and biked around Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands in March. Photo / File

"I will have a focus on both physical and mental health," she said.

"From my perspective it's totally aligned with our social investment approach, saying that if we want to have people being able to read, write and do maths and be digitally fluent and succeed in the arts and other areas, then we need as much as possible, through parents and government and society, to reduce their barriers to learning."

Although health and wellbeing were primarily up to parents, she said parents "really appreciate good guidance" such as in new guidelines issued yesterday for children's screen time, physical activity and sleep times.

Kaye said she wanted new measures to show students' progress, even if they stayed above, at, below or well below national standards.

"One thing I'm pretty passionate about is, separate to national standards, I will have discussions on how we enable other measurements of progression," she said.

She plans new initiatives in the next few weeks to overcome teacher shortages in subject areas such as maths and te reo Māori and in regions such as Auckland and Nelson. Boyle said these could be more scholarships for trainee teachers, with trainees being bonded to teach for specified periods afterwards.

Kaye acknowledged concerns about an updated Education Act, finally passed by Parliament today, which will let children start school from age 4 years and 10 months and allow online-only schools called "communities of online learning" (COOLs).

She said she would ensure that parents understood that they could still choose when their children started school between 4 years 10 months and 6, and she promised consultation on regulations for COOLs such as whether they would need registered teachers and the threshold for state funding.

She said she did not know whether a new system for funding schools, which will replace decile-based funding, would be finalised before the September election.

"The message I've had from the sector is that they didn't want anything rushed," she said.

She said learning support for students with special needs would also change as part of the funding review.

"We have put more money in, but how do we make it easier for parents?"

- NZ Herald

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