Luxon doubles down on promise to ban phones in schools

National leader Christopher Luxon has used his first school visit as prime minister to reiterate his intention to ban mobile phones during class time.

"We are going to ban phones across New Zealand in schools" Luxon said, speaking to media alongside new education minister Erica Stanford at Auckland’s Manurewa Intermediate.

"That’s very simply that you see good schools like this that have already taken that decision, and it’s been a long-standing practice getting great educational outcomes."

Before he took the podium he was treated to a performance by pupils of ‘Bills’ by LunchMoney Lewis, Luxon’s favourite song.

Luxon praised the principal Iain Taylor, describing him as an inspiring leader who achieved great results from his pupils.

He said pupils at this school had an hour of reading, writing and maths every day - a key education policy for National on the campaign trail.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and Education Minister Erica Stanford during a visit to Manurewa...
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and Education Minister Erica Stanford during a visit to Manurewa Intermediate School. Photo: NZ Herald
Stanford said less than half of our young people are able to meet literacy and numeracy standards.

The curriculum is not supporting teachers or children currently, and that is why they aren’t meeting literacy and numeracy standards, she said.

Speaking on the past policy of National Standards, Stanford said what they had planned now was quite different and "we learned from the mistakes".

Luxon announced his 100-day plan this week, including a number of education initiatives including to begin disestablishing Te Pukenga, the polytech mega-merger; banning cellphones in schools; and appointing an expert group to redesign the English and maths curricula for primary school students.

Luxon has also promised to require primary and intermediate schools to teach an hour of reading, writing and maths per day starting in 2024.

Earlier today, Luxon spoke at the Bold Steps business conference in Auckland this morning with Finance Minister Nicola Willis.

Luxon’s first week in office had been dogged by the antics of his Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters, who is locked in what he has called a "war" with the media.

The Prime Minister has shrugged off criticism of those remarks as Peters being Peters, while also claiming not to have seen or heard the comments Peters had made.

"Didn’t see those comments, but I’m excited to get to work with this team here and get things done for New Zealand," Luxon said, ahead of his first Cabinet meeting.

Peters then repeated the comments, potentially for Luxon’s benefit, telling media photographing the first Cabinet meeting to explain the conditions of funding from the Public Interest Journalism Fund.

"Before you go - can you possibly tell the public what you had to sign up to to get the money, it’s called transparency," Peters said.

Luxon was asked about those comments but did not respond. Fellow Cabinet ministers shuffled awkwardly in their seats.

The controversy stems from a Treaty clause in some documents pertaining to the fund. NZME, the publisher of the Herald, received money from the fund.

Applicants to the Public Interest Journalism Fund were asked that when appropriate in producing funded content to support NZ identity, culture and public interest requirements, including support for the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

However, overriding this in NZME’s funding agreements - a clause specifically requested by the company - is an acknowledgement of the absolute editorial independence of the media entity: "We acknowledge the importance of your editorial discretion as a media entity and confirm nothing in this agreement will limit or in any way impede or influence the ability of your news reporting functions to report and comment on news stories and current events, including those involving us, as you see fit."