Labour will fund an extra 2000 teachers under its policy to reduce primary class sizes to 26 students by 2016 and secondary schools to an average of 23 by 2018 - a step expected to cost $350 million over the next three years.
Labour leader David Cunliffe has announced the policy at Labour's Congress alongside a suite of associated education policies.
It will pay by scrapping National's $359 million 'Investing in Educational Success' scheme, under which the best teachers and principals are paid more and used to help work with other teachers and schools.
Labour's proposals include:
* reduce primary school class size ratios to 1:26 from 1:29 by 2016
* reduce secondary school average class sizes to 23 by 2018
* raise the standard of entry into teaching courses
* new 'school advisory service' to identify and make use of good teachers, including seconding good teachers to other schools for up to 3 years.
* set minimum standards for those wanting to be principals
* new classrooms and equipment for the 2000 teachers, $104 million.
Mr Cunliffe said National's proposal to reward teachers was unworkable and had divided the sector.
"We all know kids do better in smaller classes because their teacher has more time to devote to them. Teachers need to be recognised and rewarded for the enormous contribution they make to our society."
The class size announcement got the loudest cheer for Mr Cunliffe in his address to the Congress.
"The current Government's policy of taking good teachers out of their schools and creating a competitive, part-time, bonus-driven teaching environment will not help New Zealand's children."
He said Labour's policy to reduce class sized would do more.
"It is a far better use of our education resource to increase the number of educators we have and make sure they receive the best training possible than more money for performance pay and part-time principals."