1980s and 1990s Rreforms

In the 1980s, New Zealand education underwent more major reforms. Early in the decade, the government called for a review of the curriculum. This information was collected but the public's ideas were not used. Instead, it was overtaken by reforms that addressed the administration of education. Two major reports appeared.

"Administering for Excellence"
The first, "Administering for Excellence", was produced by Professor Peter Ramsay of Waikato University, Margaret Rosemergy, a Wellington Teachers College lecturer. Whetumarama Rolleston, a sociologist, and Dunedin businessman and Otago university council member Colin Wise. Simon Smelt from Treasury and Marijke Robinson from the State Services Commission were attached to the Task force where they played a major and at times controversial role. The report was a mixture of good education principle and a business model of education with plenty of compromise, reflecting the internal tension of the deliberations. The report became known as the Picot report after its chair, Brian Picot, a supermarket magnate.

In 1989, the school leaving age was raised from 15 years to 16 years.

"Tomorrow's Schools"
The second report called Tomorrow's Schools, drafted by officials including Robinson and Smelt but no educationalists, was accepted by new Education Minister David Lange and his colleagues as the blueprint for the future organization of New Zealand's school system. Principal Noel Scott of Makoura College, a secondary school in Masterton, had visited Canada, and on return spoke with Lange; He also gave input into the Tomorrow's Schools concept.

The government replaced the Department of Education with three new bodies:
the Ministry of Education
an Education Review Office (ERO)
the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA)
Schools became autonomous entities, managed by boards of trustees. This arrangement is in place today in all schools in New Zealand.

Conservative curriculum reforms were completed in the 1990s, followed by more comprehensive and contemporary reform a decade later, updating what was taught in schools for the 21st century.