Education Policy | Post Primary | Preschool | Primary | Tertiary | Search


20 free hours policy will result in closures

26 January 2006

20 free hours policy, in current form, will force best early childhood centres to close

Labour's '20 hours a week free' policy, unless modified, will force New Zealand's best early childhood centres to either slash quality or close, says research released today (26 January).

The research assesses Labour's election promise of free early childhood education for three and four years olds at teacher-led centres.

It concludes that if Government subsidises all centres at the same rate, low-cost centres will make 'windfall profits'.

But high-cost centres will 'either go out of business (or) reduce service levels'.

Commissioned by the Early Childhood Council (ECC) and undertaken by the NZIER, the report says problems arise because the subsidy would be for the first 20 hours a child attends, but centres would not be allowed to charge additional fees for those hours.

ECC chief executive Sue Thorne describes the plan as 'well-intentioned but misguided'.

'The Government would impose a single hourly rate on a sector in which hourly fees vary between $2 and $15.

'It would be as if they suddenly legislated that all cars must be the same price.

'The owners of low-cost centres would receive sudden windfall profits. They would be dancing in the streets. But high-quality/high-cost centres would be forced to either slash and burn or close down.

'The Government would have, in a single stroke, undermined its own policy of improving quality. And the consequences for thousands of children would be disastrous.'

The NZIER report says damage would be especially bad in northern and urban parts of New Zealand where costs are higher than in southern and rural locations.

It recommends, as a minimum, that: ß Centres be permitted to charge top up fees if their costs exceed the subsidy; ß Parents be given the choice to either pay these fees or find a centre with none; and ß The subsidy not be based on national average costs as currently intended, but be paid at a lower rate in low-cost regions and a higher rate in high-cost regions.

Its policy of preference, however, is to target the most disadvantaged children by increasing the existing Work and Income childcare subsidy to fund 20 free hours, and 'actively seeking out and recruiting' children not yet participating in early childhood education.

The Government announced, as part of its 2004 Budget, the policy of free early childhood education for three and four year olds at teacher-led centres. The policy was intended originally for community-owned centres only, but extended to commercial centres in the run up to last year's General Election. Scheduled for introduction in 2007, the total cost of the policy is estimated to be $105 million a year.

ECC is the largest representative body of licensed early childhood centres in New Zealand. Our 860 member centres are both community-owned and commercially-owned, employ more than 5000 staff, and care for more than 45,000 children.


© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines

Legendary Bassist David Friesen Plays Wellington’s Newest Jazz Venue

Friesen is touring New Zealand to promote his latest album Another Time, Another Place, recorded live at Auckland's Creative Jazz Club in 2015. More>>

Howard Davis Review: The Father - Descending Into The Depths of Dementia

Florian Zeller's dazzling drama The Father explores the effects of a deeply unsettling illness that affects 62,000 Kiwis, a number expected to grow to 102,000 by 2030. More>>

Howard Davis Review: Blade Runner Redivivus

When Ridley Scott's innovative, neo-noir, sci-fi flick Blade Runner was originally released in 1982, at a cost of over $45 million, it was a commercial bomb. More>>

14-21 October: New Zealand Improv Festival In Wellington

Imagined curses, Shibuya’s traffic, the apocalypse, and motherhood have little in common, but all these and more serve as inspiration for the eclectic improvised offerings coming to BATS Theatre this October for the annual New Zealand Improv Festival. More>>


Bird Of The Year Off To A Flying Start

The competition asks New Zealanders to vote for their favourite bird in the hopes of raising awareness of the threats they face. More>>

Scoop Review Of Books:
Jenny Abrahamson's John & Charles Enys: Castle Hill Runholders, 1864-1891

This volume will be of interest to a range of readers interested in the South Island high country, New Zealand’s natural environment, and the history of science. More>>