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Budget cuts to early childhood education kick in next week

Budget cuts to early childhood education kick in next week (1 February)

Early childhood education revenue cuts, announced in last year’s Government Budget, are effective from next week (1 February).

The cuts have significantly reduced funding for early childhood education centres with 80% or more qualified staff.

The cuts, which take effect from Tuesday (1 February), impact about 2,000 education and care centres nationwide and about 93,000 children.

The Chief Executive of the Early Childhood Council, the largest representative body of licensed early childhood centres in New Zealand, said that the revenue cuts had disappointed many in the early childhood sector and were seeing ‘most impacted centres lose something between about $20,000 and $80,000 a year’.

Mr Reynolds said that as a result most of these centres had just or were about to increase fees to parents, ‘many by $10 to $40 a week per child’.

The revenue cuts were ‘a big blow for many centres’, he said.

Hundreds had invested much money and effort to raise the percentage of their qualified teachers over the 80% level, and had, ‘in many cases, put their own money into these educational programmes’.

‘Many of these centre owners and managers feel angry, in part because they see the revenue cuts punishing them financially for doing what Government asked them to do,’ Mr Reynolds said.

Centres were concerned about the impact the revenue cuts were set to have on children, families and staff, he said.

As a result of the cuts many centres were in the process of reducing the proportion of qualified teachers on their staff and/or reducing teacher-child ratios. And ‘very probably the majority' of effected centres were reducing professional development opportunities for their staff.

Mr Reynolds said the impact of the Budget cuts in low-income areas was ‘especially concerning’.

‘Because families in these areas are less able to make up for losses of Government revenue by paying increased fees, many centres in such areas are being impacted more severely than those from higher socio-economic areas,’ he said. And that was why the threat to service quality for low-income children was especially serious.

Mr Reynolds said that many ECC members (centre owners and managers) were ‘very angry’ at the Government ‘for the revenue cut and the impact it is having’ and ‘felt as if they had been slapped in the face’.

Other ECC members, while not liking the cuts, were ‘grudgingly accepting’ that the Government was borrowing heavily to meet its obligations and that cuts were necessary across a range of Government spending.

The Early Childhood Council has 1,100 member centres. These centres are both community-owned and commercially owned, employ more than 7,000 staff, and care for more than 50,000 children.

ENDS

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