New Education Minister Nikki Kaye says she plans to be a "modernising" minister.

Kaye, 37, will be the youngest female Education Minister in New Zealand's history and says that as part of the "millennial" generation she comes without the ideological "baggage" that previous National Party ministers have brought to the role - especially in their frequent battles with teacher unions.

Instead, she is passionate about new technology, which has already been her responsibility since she became an associate education minister in 2013.

"I think I have already, as associate minister, had quite a focus in terms of modernisation of the portfolio, and you can expect to see more of that in the future," she said.


"There are obviously some areas I feel very passionately about. The impact of new technology in education is one area, but obviously next week and in the coming weeks you will hear more about my priorities."

She said the Government had made a huge investment in ultra-fast broadband connections to every school - but that did not mean face-to-face classroom teaching would disappear.

"All the international research has shown that we need to have that balance of both face-to-face learning versus screen time," she said.

"I know that many parents are struggling with that issue, which is how much is a good amount of time online. I think there is already a set of guidelines that is going out to schools, and we can strengthen those as we move forward in the next few months."

Kaye did not have strong links to the education portfolio until she became an associate minister. She worked for current Prime Minister Bill English as a policy analyst in 2002, then as a policy officer for two local councils in London, then managed a transport programme for disabled people and worked in information technology at Halifax Bank of Scotland.

She returned to New Zealand in 2007 and won Auckland Central for the National Party for the first time in 2008.

But she said there was "no greater portfolio than education to be able to change the course of the nation" - and she brought her youth to the job.

"I do think that, possibly being a bit younger, I don't have the same history that some people may have around industrial relations," she said.


"I think I'm very pragmatic as a person, and I'm very collaborative, I naturally want to work with others to find a solution. All I ask is that we have a respectful relationship where there are no surprises and where we work constructively where we can and disagree where we disagree."

She said National Standards, introduced by her predecessors Anne Tolley and Hekia Parata, had identified the students who were falling behind in literacy and numeracy, and the Government's "social investment" approach would continue to target those students who needed most help.

"We have better data than ever before, and part of our social investment approach is being able to target those young people," she said.

"We have already signalled that there is going to be a range of more interventions in this space."

She expects a briefing when she formally takes over as Education Minister next week on a more targeted school funding system to replace the current socioeconomic decile ratings.

Kaye took leave from Parliament last September after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but she said her doctors had cleared her to return to work. She came third in her division in a recent race running, cycling and swimming around Motutapu and Rangitoto Islands.

"It's great to get back into exercise," she said. "I feel better than I've felt in years."

• Two men, Phil Goff in 1989 and Nick Smith in 1999, were younger when they became Education Ministers, but New Zealand had no female ministers in the role until Anne Tolley in 2008.