The Ministry of Education has told schools they will not get extra support for teaching arts, science and physical education next year.

The move was because the Government wanted schools to focus on reading, writing and mathematics before the introduction of the National Standards, Radio New Zealand reported.

A letter from the ministry said schools would get no help from advisory groups, provided by six universities, to teach anything other than reading, writing and maths.

The advisory groups would also help with the implementation of the national standards.

Education Minister Anne Tolley said she was "damned if I do damned if I don't".

"With this sector, I can't win ... if I hadn't provided them with support I can bet you we'd be having the same conversation about how I'm going to be requiring them to implement national standards with no support.

"With the introduction of national standards next year I have said that the sector has said to me repeatedly 'we're going to need extra help'."

The focus for next year was reading, writing and maths. In the future it could be arts or science, Mrs Tolley said.

Schools were "perfectly capable" of providing some of their own professional development.

There was limited money, she said.

"I got an increase of $300 million in education and I have spent that as wisely as I can across the sector."

Principals said it sent a "strong message" about the impact the standards would have on the range of subjects taught in schools.

Further details on the national standards will be released today.

- NZPA