Maori immersion schools will be exempt from increases in class size announced in this year's Budget - a move critics have labelled unfair.

Associate Minister of Education Pita Sharples announced yesterday that kura kaupapa and wharekura would not be subject to the cap on teacher numbers that will increase class sizes and save the Government $43 million a year.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said the Government had made the move because of the recognised challenges of teaching an immersion language.

"Proportionately immersion schools are more successful in raising Maori achievement than mainstream and we do not want to impair that progress," she said.


She said class sizes would not have a negative impact on the quality of learning and the $511.9 million allocated in the Budget to education would largely focus on improving teaching quality and raising the level of achievement of Maori and Pacific students.

"Given the current economic climate, in order to invest in quality teaching, the Government has had to make some trade-offs," Ms Parata said.

Te Kahui Mana Ririki, a child advocacy organisation, welcomed the move.

Director Anton Blank said Maori children in immersion schools would get the attention that they needed.

"It's also supporting kaupapa Maori education, which we know is very successful with Maori kids," he said.

Opposition parties criticised the announcement, with NZ First leader Winston Peters saying smaller class sizes were the best way to raise student achievement and the immunity of Maori immersion schools was unfair.

"This move demonstrates either there's discrimination in favour of one racial group, or the theory that small class sizes are important for education."

Labour's education spokeswoman, Nanaia Mahuta, said: "It's further evidence that smaller class sizes in those kura work well for Maori students, so why not for all students."

Dr Sharples also announced that the Government would spend $76.4 million over four years to improve Maori students' results.

Read all of's Budget coverage here.