Labour has announced it won't be extending the fees-free tertiary programme past the first year of study, instead prioritising free apprenticeships and targeted areas of vocational training.

The party says it will provide free access to all apprenticeships and to many trades training courses for the next two years if elected.

The initiative is part of the party's $1.7 billion education package announced today.

"We will be targeting our additional tertiary education spending in areas that are critical for the country's economic recovery in the post-Covid environment," says Chris Hipkins.

He says the initiatives will be supported by the reform of the Vocational Education System which will be completed if the party is re-elected.

Labour says tens of thousands of learners are eligible to save between $2,500 and $6,000 a year under this policy.

From 2022, the party would also implement the Equality Index in schools, scrapping the current decile system.

In September 2019, Hipkins first pledged to scrap the decile system saying it made sense to use a system that more accurately predicted whether children were at risk of failure.

"We want every child no matter who they are or where they come from to have the opportunity to fulfil their potential and live life to the fullest. This is a huge step towards addressing the inequities in our public education system.

"Once it's fully implemented the new funding system is expected to involve additional funding of $75m per year, across schooling and early learning. But it's important that there's also a transition period where the shift to the Equity Index is managed carefully."

Key policies in the education package

  • Replace the decile system with the Equality Index
  • Significantly close the pay gap for teachers working in education and care centres
  • Continue rolling out free lunches programme to a quarter of all school-aged children
  • Targeted funding in areas such as trades training and apprenticeships

Labour also pledges to "ensure all 17,000 teachers working in education and care centres are paid what they deserve".

It will continue to work towards pay parity between teachers in education and care centres and their counterparts in schools and kindergartens.

Yesterday, the National Party pledged a $1.9 billion education package if elected into government.