Aspiring teachers will have to undergo personality tests to make it into the profession under changes proposed by the National Party.

National leader John Key released the party's education policy yesterday, including several measures aimed at improving the quality of teachers and the performance of schools.

National would also change the law to make it easier for schools to search students suspected of carrying drugs or weapons.

Education Minister Anne Tolley said the party was considering setting formal assessment of "a disposition to teach".

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"The biggest influence on learning is the teaching, and we want to make sure we have world-class teachers across the board. Making changes to initial teacher training and setting 'disposition to teach' criteria is to make sure we get the right people going into teaching."

Measures included overhauling teacher training by making it a post-graduate qualification, meaning students would have to do an undergraduate degree first. However, people with specialist skills could be fast-tracked and tradespeople could be allowed to teach with minimal teacher training.

Labour Party education spokeswoman Sue Moroney said there was nothing in National's policy to stop low levels of engagement in learning.

"They are also confused about what we need in our teachers, saying they will test them for 'disposition to teach' but then going on to say they will get specialist staff teaching first and then work out if they're any good at the job."

Asked what personality traits would be included in a disposition test, Ms Tolley said she was still talking to the sector about it. Training colleges already apply discretion when accepting students, and she believed some criteria should be set.

The minister said law changes would also be made to allow schools to guard against drugs and weapons on their campuses.

"There are guidelines on search and seizure but there are still some grey areas. We're looking at legislation that needs to be clarified so where teachers or schools have good reason to suspect a student is bringing in drugs or weapons they are able to search their property knowing they are backed up by the law."

Ms Tolley said increased emphasis would be put on the performance of schools, including giving them incentives to perform well.

Secondary schools and early childhood centres would have to report on their performance more fully. Currently, NCEA results of secondary schools are released but other details, such as the number of early school leavers and the qualifications they have, are not.

Frances Nelson of the NZEI teacher union said she was concerned about the incentives approach, which suggested schools that did not perform well could be penalised by having money taken from them.

She also criticised National for leaving it until so close to an election to release such an important policy, saying it left little time to debate it and for voters to digest it.

The NZEI is a registered promoter in the election and has been running television and newspaper advertisements campaigning against National Standards.

Mr Key said the decision to release the policy at this stage was to highlight the importance of education to National.

He remained unrepentant about requiring schools to report on National Standards, saying parents had to know how their child and the school as a whole was doing.

He said although it was possible the material could be collected to form a "league table" of schools, it would not be simple because the information was not easily comparable.

National also set a target of getting 98 per cent of children into early childhood education by 2015 - about 3500 more.

Ms Tolley said although the 20-hours-free policy would remain, she could not guarantee that some parents would not face fee increases as National targeted those areas where attendance of ECE was lowest, such as Maori and Pacific Island communities.

Proposals
Schools
* Require secondary schools to report on wider performance, including school dropout numbers.
* Bed in National Standards, schools to report results publicly from 2012.
* Introduce "disposition testing" for new teachers.
* Make teacher training courses a post-graduate qualification.
* Review the Teachers' Council.
* Change law to allow search and seizure of suspected drugs and weapons.
* More training for new principals.
* Spend $1 billion from state asset sales on new schools and buildings.
* Target funding at schools and teachers underperforming in National Standards.
* Review regulations for rural school swimming pools.

Early Childhood Education
* Retain 20 hours free and fee controls.
* Boost participation to 98 per cent by 2015 (about 3500 children), targeting Maori and Pacific Island families.
* Raise qualified-teacher total from 67 per cent to 80 by end of next year.
* Require centres to put performance information on a website.