Recent Developments (2010–Present)

In 2012 the Ministry came under fire over a number of different issues including the release of National Standards data, the Novopay payroll system, the closure and merger of schools in Christchurch, the implementation of charter schools, and the closure of residential schools.

Resignation of Lesley Longstone
Lesley Longstone was recruited from Britain where her last role was overseeing the introduction of a UK version of charter schools in Britain. She was appointed as chief executive for the Ministry of Education in New Zealand with a five-year contract starting in July 2012 and a salary of $660,000 a year. She was recruited from England and given a "relocation payout" of $50,000 which "covers flights, freight, up to eight weeks' accommodation and visa expenses". Chief executives recruited from overseas only have to repay the grant if they leave the job within a year. Longstone held the position for 13 months before she was pushed into resigning after her relationship with Education Minister Hekia Parata became 'strained'. She was paid $425,000 in severance pay.

National standards
This system of assessment and reporting to Primary school parents was launched by Education Minister Anne Tolley and her successor Hekia Parata without trials. Initially it was highly unpopular with primary teachers. It required them to report to parents using a standardized format based on "standardized" assessments. As many as half of all school said they would not use the system. Parata threatened she would sack any Board of Trustees who did not follow her directions. By 2014 all primary school use National Standards. Some confusion has arisen because of the similarity of names between NCEA standards used in secondary schools and national standards used in primary schools but the two systems are completely separate and very different.

The National government consistently claimed that parents supported the new standards but refused to provide evidence. Analysis of the National Survey of more than 3,000 parents done by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research found that only 14% of parents made positive remarks about the scheme compared to 38% who made negative remarks.

Primary schools can select from a wide range of assessment tools to enable them to report on their students. Not all school use the same methods. Results are open to interpretations so there is significant variation within and between schools.

Standards advisers were appointed by the government to help schools. They report a wide variation in how schools have implemented the standards. It is difficult for schools to avoid teaching to the standards instead of the curriculum to try to improve their results. Schools are under pressure by the wider community to deliver ever better results. Analysis of results is very difficult as the standard has been set artificially high by approximately 6%. Education Minister Hekia Parata call this "aspirational". Errors in assessment and variables in the system cause an error rate of about plus or minus 5%. Most educational authorities say the assessments are very subjective leaving too many judgement calls to teachers and principals. There are many other tried and tested assessment methods which are easier to use,more proven and more objective. Trials of these older methods are ongoing in some schools in 2014.

Implementation of national standards meant that poorer schools had to spend a significant part of their budgets upgrading office computer systems to allow the system to work.

Class sizes
In May 2012, Education Minister, Hekia Parata, announced changes to the education sector which would raise the level of qualification required by teachers - including a minimum requirement of postgraduate degrees for teacher trainees. Because of proposed budget cuts, she also announced there would be a loss of specialized teaching staff in intermediate schools and a corresponding increase in class sizes. However, it was Treasury rather than the Ministry of Education which was responsible for promoting this strategy "which essentially rates teacher quality as a more critical factor than class size".

As Education Minister, Parata was given the job of selling the policy to the sector. She claimed the changes would save $43 million a year and that: "About 90 per cent of schools will have a net loss of less than one full-time teacher equivalent as a result of the combined effect of the ratio changes and projected roll growth." Over the next few months, teachers and parents alike voiced their concerns about the proposed changes especially when it was revealed that the new ratios would cause some schools to lose up to seven teachers. Because of public backlash, in June 2012 Parata announced the Government would not go ahead with the policy and acknowledged it had caused "a disproportionate amount of anxiety for parents".

In 2012, the Ministry rolled out a new payroll system for teachers and other school staff called Novopay run by the Australian company Talent 2. From the outset, the system led to widespread problems with over 8,000 teachers receiving the wrong pay and in some cases no pay at all; within a few months, 90% of schools were affected.

The 'Novopay débâcle' as it was called received almost daily media attention, causing embarrassment for the new Minister of Education Hekia Parata, and leading to the resignation of newly recruited Education secretary Leslie Longstone. The Australian Financial Review says: "The débâcle bears similarities to the botched $500 million payroll implementation at Queensland Health by IBM" which is expected to end up costing $1.25 billion.
Hekia Parata was relieved of her duties towards Novopay by the prime minister and replaced by Steven Joice but problems continued and prior to the September 2014 election Joyce admitted that Novopay would be taken over and run by the government as he saw no hope that Novopay could be made into an efficient, viable organization.
In 2014 the National Government announced that it was terminating the Novopay contract and would be forming a new government-run organisation to take over. This was implemented in October 2014.

School closures in Christchurch
In September 2012, newly appointed Education Minister, Hekia Parata, announced that 13 schools in Christchurch would be closed and 18 would be merged following the earthquakes the previous year. The decision caused outrage in the local community. In an editorial, the New Zealand Herald said: "Of all the mishaps in education this year, the Christchurch school plan was the most telling. To read the plan was to see a Ministry utterly out of touch with the people its schools are supposed to serve. The earthquakes had left a number of schools damaged and some of their communities decimated. Some closures would be required. But not nearly as many as the ministry decided."

After further consultation, the Government backtracked. On 18 February, Ministry of Education staff visited the 31 schools under the Ministry's spotlight to tell teachers and principals in person which schools would be closed. Seven schools would close and twelve would merge creating another five closures. Another twelve schools originally proposed for closure or merger would now remain unaffected. In March 2013 the Ombudsman announced an investigation would be held into the way the Education Ministry conducted its consultation process on schools closures and mergers to see if they were done in "a manner that adequately ensures fair and meaningful participation by affected parties".

Charter schools
The National government agreed to the introduction of charter schools in 2011 as part of its arrangement with John Banks for the support of the ACT Party after the election. Catherine Isaac, a former Act president, says charter schools would not have to follow Ministry of Education requirements but would be free to set their own timetables, school terms and teacher working conditions.

The proposal for charter schools aroused considerable opposition, not just from teachers groups. Speaking to a parliamentary committee, New Zealand Principals' Federation president Philip Harding said: "There is no public mandate to pursue this policy." The New Zealand School Trustees Association expressed concerns about allowing people to teach who are not registered teachers. The Chief Ombudsman, Dame Beverley Wakem, expressed concern that making charter schools exempt from public scrutiny was "unconstitutional" and would detract from public confidence. In February 2013, visiting American Karran Harper Royal told the education and science committee in Parliament that "charter schools have been a failed experiment in New Orleans" and the Government should not proceed with them.

John O'Neill, professor of teacher education at Massey University's Institute of Education says the Bill proposing the establishment of charter schools is "undemocratic and patronising". The Education Amendment Bill euphemistically refers to them as 'partnership' schools - but O'Neill says "the so-called partnership will only be between the Government and a private 'sponsor' which may be for-profit and have no prior connection with the local community". He says parents will have no right of representation on the school's governing body as they do in state schools, and the Minister of Education can set up a charter school without even consulting the local community.

Leaky schools
By March 2013, 305 schools were reported as having problems with cladding and weather-tightness issues which is expected to cost the Ministry up to $1.4 billion to repair. These schools were built or modified between 1995 and 2005, and are an extension of the leaky homes crisis which has affected many New Zealand homes of the same era. At Te Rapa school (near Hamilton) so many of the classrooms were affected the entire school was "forced to play musical classrooms" for over a year while repairs were being done. Principal Vaughan Franklin described it as a 'massive disruption' which threatened the quality of teaching. So far only 61 schools have been repaired.
In 2013 the Ministry was involved in legal action over 87 schools to rectify damage caused by "poor design, workmanship, quality control, and materials failure" and is holding architects, designers and builders liable for the cost of repairs. Contractors are liable for the cost if the building work was undertaken within the past 10 years.
Weathertightness issues have also been identified with several 1970s-built secondary schools constructed to the "S 68" design. These schools were designed with low-pitched roofs and protruding wooden clerestory windows in pre-1977 schools (schools built from 1977 have skylights), which in recent years have started to cause problems in areas with relatively high rainfall. The original prototype buildings at Porirua College (opened in 1968, hence "S 68"), have progressively been replaced with modern building since 2007, while extensive re-roofing projects have taken place at other schools, including Waiopehu College in Levin and Awatapu College in Palmerston North.