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Growing gaps in early childhood education

4th June 2004

Rural Women concerned over growing gaps in early childhood education

Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) is concerned that young children are missing out on education in rural areas due to changes in Government policy.

Last week the Government announced 20 hours of free education for 3 and 4 year olds, but this does not relate to private centres.

RWNZ education spokeswoman Jacky Stafford says that, once again, the Government is promoting urban drift, through making it necessary for families to live near main centres to take advantage of any Government schemes.

Mrs Stafford says it is getting harder for rural suppliers and parents to provide early childhood education because of increased travel distances to rural schools, and changes in the training requirements for supervisors.

“The qualification for early Childhood education used to involve an 18-month course. The training requirement is now a three-year course, which excludes many potential candidates in rural areas,” says Mrs Stafford, who is chair of the Rural Education Reference Group (RERG).

“For rural people, the travel required to attend a relevant institution, and the extra time involved deters many interested takers. If the Government is serious about sustaining an agricultural economy in New Zealand, they should be removing barriers to servicing rural communities, not increasing them,” Mrs Stafford says.

Rural families are continually faced with more expense as services become increasingly centralised. With lack of child care facilities in rural areas – how does a family get a second income to pay for increased education expenses?

RWNZ took their concerns to the Minister of Rural Affairs, Damien O’Connor, back in December 2003, but no respond was forthcoming.

Mrs Stafford says that since the recent demise of the rural affairs policy section in MAF, the Minister has very little power to affect change in areas of social concern.

ENDS

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