When the Government first announced it was planning to pay some teachers thousands more a year to help raise student achievement, the policy was promptly shouted down.
Unlike in most negotiations, where unions are fighting tooth and nail to get extra cash for their members, in the case of the controversial Investing in Educational Success programme, teachers instead convinced the Government to drop their bonuses by up to $10,000 per year in favour of giving more "to the kids".
"We liked the goal but it was a terrible model," said the head of the Post-Primary Teachers' Association, Angela Roberts.
"So we 'rebalanced' things - that's what they call it - and now it's not just about money, it's about non-contact time, and about more teachers in the classroom, instead of competition for pay."
Because of the PPTA's involvement, the policy has been able to move forward, and despite ongoing negotiations with the primary teachers' union, the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI), the first part of its $349 million budget is about to be handed out to schools that have opted in.
The reforms, introduced in January 2013 and described by some principals as the most radical shift in schooling since Tomorrow's Schools, are designed to encourage schools to work together to create a seamless "pathway" for students as they pass from year to year.
The changes stemmed from government recognition that the high level of local autonomy has created a lack of collaboration among schools, that instead fight to be seen as "the best" in the district.
This in turn may be affecting student achievement.
Research says while New Zealand's top students are doing well, many at the bottom are struggling.
We are also not keeping pace with other high-performing countries, and are falling short of our own previous results.
To combat this, Education Minister Hekia Parata has taken inspiration from communities where schools have been working together and created a system where sharing ideas and best practice is rewarded.
The result is a "Community of Schools", where around 10 primary, intermediate and secondary schools form a group and identify challenges to overcome together.
Teachers and principals who are involved will be paid more to do extra work on raising student achievement, while their schools will be given additional teacher resources to make up for staff time away from the classroom.
The schools also share data, so as children move up the ladder, the transitions become easier for them.
In an interview with the Herald, the minister said some of the policy basis came from what she had seen on marae around the country.
"You see things getting done in an informal but organised way. Everyone does their own bit but it creates success overall."
She said while at the moment schools focused on their particular sectors, the programme would allow teachers across year levels to share their expertise for all.
"Communities of Schools will allow pockets of excellence to become best practice. It's not that any school becomes better than or more competitive than another."
NZEI, which is working with the Government on its own version of the policy called the Joint Initiative, has criticised the model for being too inflexible, a "one size fits all" approach that won't work on the ground.
President Louise Green says the NZEI version will be more suitable for communities' needs.
"We are saying, let's start from the need ... and develop the model to meet purpose," Ms Green said.
She said the model would be focused on putting children at the centre, not on paying people more money.
The minister did not yet know what the difference between the policies would be.
However she believed in the end, both versions would be strongly child-focused.
"This is about kids," Ms Parata said. "It's about kids getting the best, strongest most seamless pathway for their education. Because they only get it once, and we want them to get the best start possible."
Schools rediscover strength in numbers
Communities of Schools - $322m
The Investing in Educational Success policy is made up of three parts with the largest being Communities of Schools.
A community is a group of around 10 schools - usually one or two secondaries and the rest intermediates or primaries - working together to raise achievement in their area.
So far, 222 schools, or about 10 per cent, have opted in, creating 29 communities across the country.
While there has been criticism that the uptake has been slow, Canadian education professor Michael Fullan, who is helping implement the policy, says growth should be natural rather than forced.
"The delicate part about change is that you can't order it," Mr Fullan said. "It should spread because it works. It's important the Government doesn't get too heavy-handed about strategy."
Most of the communities are in their early days, but principals involved are already excited about how they are going to help the students in their area.
"Schools are positive places and we do talk to each other, but never in my years as a teacher has it been like this," said Auckland Normal Intermediate principal Jill Farquharson.
"We've never put our data on the table and talked about how to make it better for the students before. It's exciting."
In Marlborough, one community is at the forefront.
It held its first public consultation meeting this month. The next step is to set achievement challenges and have them approved, before appointing key people with the help of a national panel.
Marlborough Girls College principal Karen Stewart said while the community's challenges were broad, they planned to look at pushing those already achieving to a higher level, as well as numeracy and literacy for those not achieving, and student wellbeing.
She said the community had a history of working together, but the policy brought home its importance for achievement.
"We are moving away from where schools are responsible for students only for a five-year period," Ms Stewart said.
"This will mean all of us taking responsibility for our learners the whole way through."
Post-Primary Teachers' Association head Angela Roberts said the most important thing for parents to know was that it would mean more teachers in schools.
"I know the concerns the parents have had is that if their kid has a great teacher they want them in the classroom," she said.
"But the goal here is trying to make an environment between schools where people would seek critique.
"So even if you're only concerned about your own child, I can tell you as a teacher, that collaborating does improve your own practice."
Trouble-shooting fund for strugglers divides opinion
Principals' recruitment allowance - $10milion
In perhaps the most controversial move of the Investing in Educational Success plan, the Government will pay up to $50,000 extra a year for able principals to work in high-needs schools struggling to attract talent.
Schools that qualify for the allowance include Mangamuka School in Northland, which has 13 students.
The Ministry of Education says the school, which has a 100 per cent Maori roll, has been unable to recruit a principal, despite two attempts. It is being run by a commissioner because of governance issues.
"Every child at every school deserves a chance at a good education, no matter how small the school," the ministry said. "It is important our small rural schools get good leadership, and Northland faces particular challenges in recruitment."
But Te Tai Tokerau principals' association head Pat Newman said the policy was problematic in that it presupposed someone could "fly in and make changes". It would be better to identify the actual problems and then look at realistic ways of fixing them, Mr Newman said.
He suggested making school housing free would attract good teachers, and extra administration support would make the roles easier.
While it was good to encourage new blood, it wasn't necessary to pay one person a large amount of extra money, he said. It also did not help with social issues in the community.
But national appointments panel chairwoman Prue Kelly said principals who ended up with the job had to show they could work with diverse and challenged learners, raise achievement and work with staff and the community. They needed a history showing that change in a previous school had been sustained.
So far five schools have been approved for funding, which is up to $50,000 a year for three years.
Teacher Innovation Fund - $10m
• The Investing in Educational Success policy also includes a $10 million fund to support teachers with innovative ideas.
• It involves teachers from all state schools, not just those that have signed up for a Community, and allows working teachers to undertake research.
• They are asked to find ways to help students succeed, and will work with academics and researchers to test ideas, before sharing them with schools.