Michael Wood has dismissed Opposition criticism of Jan Tinetti after revelations her office instructed officials to delay the release of school attendance data so it could be timed with a truancy announcement.
On Thursday, Newshub revealed the latest attendance data was ready to be unveiled on December 14 but Tinetti, the Education Minister, delayed the release - saying she wanted more information.
Tinetti's office, on February 14, then told officials the plan was to release the data after the minister's upcoming truancy announcement, emails obtained under the Official Information Act showed.
Questions and criticism were now being levelled at Tinetti and her office by the Opposition.
"They were putting the needs of their political ambitions over the needs of our kids and that's what stinks," National Education spokesperson Erica Stanford said.
When asked by AM host Ryan Bridge about the saga on Friday, senior Labour minister Wood said Tinetti was "a decent and honest person".
"The minister has responded to these comments that have been made… and has made it clear that she wasn't directly involved in any discussion of that kind and was not aware of that," Wood said.
He said suggestions Tinetti wasn't being truthful "I don't think has any basis whatsoever".
"It's really important that, ultimately, departments and agencies do make their own decisions about when they release important information, and that does remain the case in this case," Wood told Bridge. "As I understand it, the Ministry of Education was still the agency that decided when they released the information.
"The most important thing here is what we're doing about this stuff and, of course, there's a lot of work that's going on to make sure we support our schools."
Tinetti was asked on Thursday if she was aware her office was holding up that data release, to which she said: "Not at that time."