Education Policy Statement

At TOP we are passionate about education, and we believe it is crucial to society’s development and wellbeing.


Our current learners will face a rapidly changing world requiring skills we don’t yet know, disruptions we haven’t yet seen, and demands we can’t imagine now.

Learners will need to be able to adapt, and educators will need to develop ways to support life-long learning.

TOP will:

  • Implement other recommendations of the 2018 Tomorrow’s Schools review to create an effective administrative system that supports the profession.
  • Restore the status of teachers by ensuring they are well paid, highly qualified, involved in continued professional development and empowered to get on with the job of teaching.
  • Prioritise the Early Years of Learning (for 0-7 year olds) to support community-oriented early child development.
  • Recreate a Ministry of Education that supports teaching and learning.
  • Dismantle the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) and Education Review Office and reform the NZ Qualifications Authority.
  • Reduce arbitrary student assessments in secondary school to free up more time for teaching and learning.
  • Refocus the Teaching Council to ensure it continues to be beneficial for all teachers and learners.
  • Encourage schools to work together rather than compete with one another, and support students to attend their local schools.
  • Ensure that special learning needs assessments have more equitable entry criteria and students receive better funding to support them.
  • Review the tertiary education sector to ensure it is providing lifelong learning opportunities.

The Early Years of Learning: TOP’s Educational Priority

Early Childhood Education (ECE) can shape outcomes, improve equity, benefit child development and build strong communities. Evidence shows that participation in quality ECE can benefit child development, but there is no evidence that increased hours leads to better outcomes. Recent policy decisions have centred on participation in ECE with little consideration to the quality of children’s learning experience.

Warm, responsive relationships are crucial to every child’s social, emotional and academic development. ECE needs to enable children to run around, play, create and develop meaningful relationships with their educators and with each other.

TOP wants to enable the ECE sector to deliver on the promises of our world-renowned curriculum, Te Whāriki. We also acknowledge that parents are a child's first teachers, but that many cannot afford to spend quality time with their children during these early years. Our Kiwi Dividend (Universal Basic Income) policy will go a long way to giving parents more lifestyle choices in this area.

The Middle Years of Learning: Primary and High School

For many children, our education system delivers excellent outcomes. But NZ’s performance in education in the middle years is slipping, particularly at the lower end, to the detriment of our whole society. Evidence shows that schools are spending too much time testing our children rather than teaching them. Assessment can be useful for diagnostics or to customise learning, but should not be used to judge performance, because test results can only show part of a child's development. Over-assessment is counterproductive to finding a child’s strengths and realising their full potential.

TOP’s educational vision is to develop a high-trust system similar to Finland. Low-trust models that dictate the curriculum and use heavy measurement methods to gauge performance can lead to cramming-based learning and teach-to-the-test approaches. Instead, TOP wants to cultivate a life-long love of learning for all students. We would achieve this by investing in quality training for teachers, trusting teachers as professionals, paying them fairly, and giving them freedom to decide how and what to teach. As part of this model, we will require students to leave school with one National Certificate in Educational Achievement (NCEA) qualification, either Level 1, 2, or 3. The prior high school years would have comprehensive individual learning plans that celebrate the natural talents, interests and passions of youth. We would like to see soft skills like collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking (4Cs) developed across a variety of contexts across all age groups. In a world of rapid change, disruption, and requirements to retrain throughout life we know how important the 4Cs model is to employers and society.

The Latter Years of Learning: Tertiary, Vocational and Life-long Learning

Tertiary education plays an important role in our society, particularly in developing critical thinking skills that are becoming increasingly important to the economy and a civil society.

We believe that in recent decades tertiary institutions have lost their way, largely due to the way they are funded which has led to substandard education, research and innovation outputs. TOP intends to review the tertiary sector and dismantle PBRF in its current form.

TOP would draw on evidence and expertise to reimagine the tertiary sector so it encourages:

  • Lifelong and flexible education, such as short intensive courses, that inspires a continually improving and well-rewarded workforce.
  • A collaborative rather than competing model across institutions in terms of administration, teaching and research initiatives.
  • A multi-disciplinary pursuit of knowledge by breaking down silos within and across tertiary institutions.
  • Partnerships between tertiary providers and the private sector, community networks and the public service, to ensure education is fit for purpose.
  • The availability of academic knowledge for public consumption.

Early Years Learning Policy

See more policy