Ministers of Education

Reflecting on Education Review's biggest topics from the past 20 years

Over the past 20 years Education Review has seen eight Education Ministers come and go.

Education Minister

Prime Minister served

Took office

Left office

Party

Lockwood Smith

Bolger

2 November 1990

1 March 1996

National

Wyatt Creech

Bolger, Shipley

1 March 1996

31 January 1999

National

Nick Smith

Shipley

31 January 1999

10 December 1999

National

Trevor Mallard

Clark

10 December 1999

19 October 2005

Labour

Steve Maharey

Clark

19 October 2005

31 October 2007

Labour

Chris Carter

Clark

31 October 2007

19 November 2008

Labour

Anne Tolley

Key

19 November 2008

12 December 2011

National

Hekia Parata

Key

12 December 2011

Incumbent

National

 

When Education Review was first published in 1996, Lockwood Smith was nearing the end of his time as education minister, having been in the role since 1990. He was particularly well known for changes made to the tertiary education sector, including a radical increase in student fees as recommended by the Todd Report, which the Government commissioned to address funding issues in the sector. He also introduced means-testing for student allowances.

Wyatt Creech was at the helm during the work towards the new qualifications framework and overhaul of special education funding. He also worked with the unions on the issue of pay parity for primary teachers.

Creech was succeeded by Nick Smith, whose time as education minister was short-lived. He held the role from the beginning of 1999 until National was defeated in the 1999 general election.

Then came Trevor Mallard, who faced criticism from teachers during a long-running strike action over salaries and for school closures in rural areas.

Steve Maharey, who went on to become vice-chancellor of Massey University, and Chris Carter both served as the education minister under Helen Clark’s leadership until Labour was defeated by National in the 2008 general election.

Anne Tolley then took on the role, overseeing the implementation of National Standards league tables, which was strongly opposed by many teachers and principals. When National was re-elected in 2011, a cabinet reshuffle led to Hekia Parata taking the education portfolio.

The main focus for current Education Minister Hekia Parata has been on improving the quality of teaching and raising student achievement. However, her proposals to increase class sizes at intermediate school level in order to free up funds to raise the quality of teacher education drew such opposition that Parata was forced to back down on the plan.

As the education minister during the Christchurch earthquakes, Parata has had a lot to contend with in rolling out the Christchurch Education Renewal Plan. She has also been at the helm during the roll-out of the controversial charter school programme and the Novopay payroll debacle. More recently, Parata introduced the Investing in Educational Success programme, which has seen the start of Communities of Learning. Despite some opposition, this policy initiative has been viewed more favourably than most.

In October this year Parata announced that she will not seek re-election at the 2017 election and will retire from politics. Upon her announcement, former education minister Trevor Mallard told RNZ that taking on the education portfolio is "not one that generally results in someone becoming popular".

The recent resignations of both Parata and Prime Minister John Key and a general election next year signals change is afoot for the leadership of both New Zealand and the education portfolio – something the sector will await with great interest.


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