Nikki Kaye is set to become the new Education Minister but her appointment has been put off for six months to allow her to recover from breast cancer treatment.

Prime Minister Bill English said yesterday that Hekia Parata would stand down from the education role in May and Kaye was "likely" to take over. Parata is quitting as an MP at the general election next year.

English said Kaye's "progress and prognosis are good", but he did not want her to return to work too quickly. "When you've got a minister who's recovering well with health issues you don't quite know how that's going to run," he said. "We don't want to put pressure on Nikki."

Kaye has been on leave from Parliament since September, when she received her diagnosis. During a surprise visit to Parliament two weeks ago, she said she was recovering well and expected to return early next year. She is now likely to come back in May.

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"Part of the rationale for the 1st of May is to ensure that she has plenty of time," English said.

"She's in the [Cabinet] list there with a light workload.

"But if she returns to work healthy, then she will certainly be getting more work."

The Auckland Central MP, who backed English for the party leadership, has been relieved of the ACC and Civil Defence portfolios but has held on to the Associate Education and Youth portfolios.

She could not be reached for comment yesterday. Speaking earlier this month, she said her caucus, in particular former Prime Minister John Key, had given her "incredible" support during her treatment.

"To all of those people who get cancer, and particularly breast cancer sufferers out there, I just want to acknowledge the courage that they have and to say that I could not have more support from my caucus during that period."