July 17th 2008
For Immediate Release
National Early Childhood Network Needed To Meet Fuelled Demand
NZEI Te Riu Roa, the union representing early childhood teachers, is welcoming figures released by the Minister of Education, which show a big boost in participation rates in early childhood education, through the 20 Hours Free policy.
A year on from the launch of the policy, the Minister has announced that over 85,000 children are benefitting and nearly 80 percent of services which are eligible, are involved.
NZEI applauds the clear commitment from the government to quality early childhood education, through increased funding for centres which have achieved 100 percent registered teachers. This is a clear signal to centres that quality is important and the increase in funding will reinforce the goal of having qualified teachers providing programmes for pre-school children.
It is also in sharp contrast to the National Party's early childhood policy, released last week, which would move away from the goal of having a fully qualified early childhood workforce by 2012.
NZEI President Frances Nelson says "in order to continue to build a quality early childhood sector, the goal of 100 percent teacher-led services is essential. Early childhood education is arguably the most important education of all, providing the foundation for all future learning."
"If the education sector is to successfully deal with student under-achievement which we know is predominantly in lower-socio-economic areas, the foundations need to be built in the early years and access to quality early childhood education is a critical factor," she says.
The 20 Hours Free policy has fuelled demand, and this has meant many children cannot access quality early childhood education because of a lack of resources. Earlier this year a Salvation Army state of the nation report said children in predominantly low income areas are missing out because there are big discrepancies between the availability of early childhood places in poor urban suburbs and more affluent areas.
"What is needed is a planned national network of early childhood education centres and more qualified early childhood teachers. The 20-hours-free policy is a significant milestone in improving affordability and participation and public provision of 100 percent teacher-led services is needed to ensure that the demand is met," says Ms Nelson.