Bill English doesn't know when second languages policy will be in action

Bill English has failed to come up with a crucial detail on his second languages policy: when kids will actually have it.

Asked several times today when all children in New Zealand would have access, Mr English failed to deliver - he could not answer the question.

Eventually, National's education spokesperson Nikki Kaye said, "In a couple of years we'll be closer to arbitrary access but we don't want to put an arbitrary timeline on it."

Then a Bill English spokesperson sent a further clarification: "We want to roll it out as fast as possible. It's our expectation that it will be in all schools in the next two years."

So we've been told a number of different stories - Mr English has no idea, Ms Kaye says it will be 'close' in two years and Mr English's office says it will be done in two years.

This time, it's Labour hammering National for a lack of detail.

Labour's education spokesperson Chris Hipkins said he's been looking at a similar initiative and there are teacher shortages, especially in Auckland.

"The Prime Minister has some critical questions to answer. What's the timeline for introducing the language option? Where are the language teachers going to come from? Will they use trained teachers or unqualified foreign language speakers? How many are needed? Will there be new training for teachers wanting to upskill?"

Sunday's policy announcement was about keeping a "hold" on centre voters with a pitch to parents.

Languages like te reo Māori, Mandarin, French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean will be offered at primary schools. The schools will decide what language to offer and it will cost about $40 million a year.

There's also money for maths, because New Zealand is under-performing compared with similar countries.

"We need to lift our game in maths. So we'll provide our students and teachers with the tools they need to do that," Mr English told the audience of 3000 National supporters.

Mr English used his speech at National campaign launch to attack Labour on tax, saying "hard working New Zealanders are not an ATM for the Labour Party."