Prime Minister Bill English has launched National's election campaign with a series of $379 million education policies - including giving every primary student the chance to learn a second language.

Other parts of the package are aimed at improving the teaching of maths to primary schools, IT digital learning for senior secondary school students and extending National Standards.

English made the announcement to a rally of at least 2500 people at Henderson in West Auckland today.

English said that voters would have an important choice between two very different visions for New Zealand.

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National's plan was to keep New Zealand moving forward - "a confident plan for a confident country, a strong National team energised by new ideas, a team that's open to trade, open to investment, and knows how an economy works."

The other choice was an unstable, untested group on the left that would risk it all with unpredictable and unclear policies.

The Labour Party policies had two things in common - working groups and more taxes: a new water tax, a new petrol tax, and a new capital gains tax.

"Hard working New Zealanders aren't an ATM for the Labour Party," he said.

Labour wanted to turn its back on Kiwi businesses and families, and add more taxes that would slow the economy and make it harder to compete in the world.

"Here's the thing: we don't need more taxes, if we manage the government finances well.

"Unlike them, I back New Zealanders."

Before English's address, his daughter, Maria, sang the national anthem.

Education Minister Nikki Kaye was the first speaker and gave English a glowing testimonial, using the throw-away line of Labour deputy Kelvin Davis, who said English had the personality of a rock.

"When the chips are down, he has been our rock," Kaye said.

"Bill English, you rock!"

English said National was passionate about education.

"We owe it to our children that they leave school equipped to succeed.

"Every single child matters - they matter to their family, to their community and to our country. And they certainly matter to me.

"So today, I'm announcing that National will implement a targeted four-point education package - costing $379 million.

"Digital learning for senior students, more resources for maths, and a guarantee that all primary school students will be able to learn a second language if they choose to.

"And we'll make it even easier for parents to track how their children are doing at school, through an expansion of National Standards."

English said he wanted young people to have the best opportunity to take advantage of new technology - "to become the next Mark Zuckerberg or Rod Drury or Frances Valintine."

Digital learning

The package would include an investment of $48 million to introduce new digital learning opportunities for Year 12 and 13 students.

Each year, new Digital Academies would offer 1000 students specialised, IT-focused learning. They would be similar to Trades Academies.

New digital internships would provide mentoring and tailored learning from businesses for 500 year 12 and 13 students, a pathway between skills gained in the classroom and real IT careers.

Maths achievement

The second part of the package was a $126 million investment to raise maths achievement for primary school students.

English said National Standards showed New Zealand needed to lift its game in maths.

"So we'll provide our students and teachers with the tools they need to do that.

"We'll help 1200 teachers a year complete extra university papers targeted at teaching maths to primary students.

"We'll also provide intensive classroom support for students, where schools have identified the need to improve their maths.

"That's all alongside extra funding for classroom resources like digital apps."

Second language

English said New Zealand wanted its children to succeed on the world stage, from the bottom of the globe, they needed to be good cross-cultural communicators.

"So the third part of our package is a $160 million investment to give all primary school children the opportunity to learn a second language, if they choose," he said.

"Schools will choose from at least 10 priority languages, which we expect to include Mandarin, French, Spanish, Japanese and Korean, along with Te Reo and New Zealand Sign Language.

National Standards

"Finally, I can confirm that a new National-led government will update National Standards, so families have more comprehensive and more timely information about their children's achievements in the classroom.

"It will be called National Standards Plus.

"National Standards has successfully set clear expectations about what every student needs to achieve in reading, writing and maths."

The initiative would provide a valuable snap-shot of how each child had performed across the year, he said.

"National Standards Plus will build on this by allowing you and your child to track their progress in more detail, online, as it happens.

"We will show you your child's progress on your mobile phone."

English said that in 27 days, voters would have an important choice between two very different visions for New Zealand.

National's plan was to keep New Zealand moving forward - "a confident plan for a confident country, a strong National team energised by new ideas, a team that's open to trade, open to investment, and knows how an economy works."

The other choice was an unstable, untested group on the left that would risk it all with unpredictable and unclear policies.

The Labour Party policies had two things in common - working groups and more taxes: a new water tax, a new petrol tax, and a new capital gains tax.

"Hard working New Zealanders aren't an ATM for the Labour Party," he said.

Labour wanted to turn its back on Kiwi businesses and families, and add more taxes that would slow the economy and make it harder to compete in the world .

"Here's the thing: we don't need more taxes, if we manage the government finances well.

"Unlike them, I back New Zealanders."

Speaking in Christchurch, Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said her party was still absolutely committed to scrapping national standards.

"Yes, teachers and parents need to know how children are progressing in the education system. But at the moment they [children] are overassessed, and that ultimately is hurting their education.

"A broken system is no better put online or put on paper ... national standards are neither national nor standard, and our view is they are doing more harm than good."

Ardern said the idea of giving students the chance to learn a second language had merit.

"I see value in that. That is something I would like to look at."