The 10th anniversary of Tomorrow’s Schools

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


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In 1999 Education Review reflected on what the Tomorrow’s Schools reforms had done for New Zealand education, 10 years since it was introduced.

The Tomorrow’s Schools reforms emerged from the Picot Report, a review of New Zealand’s state schooling system. The new policy was all about shifting control and decision-making from the centre to individual schools. Boards of Trustees were created. The purpose was to make the system more efficient and more responsive to its ‘clients’ and to alter the relationship between teachers and parents.

However, as John Codd reflected in Education Review’s October 1999 issue, the reforms actually produced more centralised control over areas such as the curriculum, assessment, teaching profession and general expenditure.

David Lange was the prime minister at the time that Tomorrow’s Schools was introduced in 1989 and is considered the architect of the policy. But, reflecting on the reforms 10 years later in a Clem Hill Memorial Lecture, he criticised the subsequent National government for allowing the Ministry of Education to become a spectator to the scheme, shirking their responsibilities for providing schools with guidelines for dealing with truancy, behaviour management and zoning, which had led schools to compete with each other. 

Cathy Wylie reflects that while decentralisation has undoubted benefits for schools in terms of effective resource allocation, greater partnership with parents and more emphasis on whole-school development, she bemoans the costs of decentralisation and also points out that choice is not a simple, cheap, or efficient option and that equity remains problematic. 

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