Labour's school policy due

Last updated 05:00 04/07/2014

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Labour is planning two major education announcements, expected to include a plan to provide tablets or laptops to school students, at its three-day congress starting in Wellington today.

In 2011 Labour said it would spend $75 million over four years to put laptops into the hands of 31,000 year 7 to year 13 students in low-decile schools, but it is expected to drop the plan to target the policy and make it universal at a much higher cost.

At the same time it is eyeing ways to ensure students can use the devices at home, by ensuring they have broadband access by creating ''community learning networks''.

The model for the plan, put together by education spokesman Chris Hipkins, is the East Tamaki Manaiakalani project which provides a community wi-fi network and supports the lease of devices to students and their families.

However, other approaches may also be used because the East Tamaki model may not be right for areas with lower population density.

Labour is also tipped to announce plans to upgrade schools and reallocate the $359m that the Government earmarked in January for specialist teachers and principals.

The announcements are part of Labour's rolling release of education policy that this week saw it pledge $50m to cut the cost of ''voluntary'' parent donations to schools.

Leader David Cunliffe said the congress in Wellington, including his keynote speech on Sunday, would set the themes for the September 20 election campaign.

Education would be a high priority, aiming to give every child a first class education. Technology would be part of the mix.

The congress comes a week after National's annual conference and at a time when Labour is struggling in the polls.

A succession of surveys have put it below 30 per cent, but Cunliffe said internal polling showed that rising.

He said party members knew well that National, polling at about 50 per cent now, ''typically sheds half a dozen per cent in a campaign'' when it is in government. Labour's on the ground organisation could lift its vote by another 2-3 points making the chances of forming a coalition government ''very, very real indeed''.

''We obviously won't be governing on our own but as the governor-general has said it's the largest coalition that forms a government not the largest party,'' Cunliffe said.

Labour had a positive relationship with the Greens and NZ First and those two, ''perhaps especially the Greens are where we start'', Cunliffe said.  Labour was not worried about the impact of the Internet-Mana alliance and would not be doing any pre-election deals.

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