Early Childhood Council on Fees
Hundreds of early childhood centres unable to maintain quality if parents stopped paying fees
Many hundreds of early childhood centres would be unable to maintain current levels of quality without the payment of parental fees.
This is the view of New Zealand’s largest representative body of licensed early childhood centres.
The statement by the Early Childhood Council follows a report in the Herald on Sunday (03 March 2013) in which some commentators suggested that centres should not be charging parents for the Government’s ‘20 Hours’ of education and care.
In response, Council CEO Peter Reynolds said today (07 March) that Government funding was insufficient for some centres to deliver a satisfactory level of education and care.
If parents withdrew from paying fees hundreds of centres would have to cut services and quality, he said. And some would be faced with a choice between closure and financial ruin.
There was, Mr Reynolds said, a ‘fundamental flaw’ in the 20 Hours policy.
‘20 Hours is paid at the same average rates to all centres – no matter what their cost structures.
‘It doesn’t matter if centres are on land worth tens of thousands of dollars or land worth more than a million.
‘It doesn’t matter if centres deliver a style of education and care that is cheap or expensive to provide. And it doesn’t matter if centres are in areas with high or low running costs.’
This, Mr Reynolds said, was ‘an absurdity’.
‘It’s like telling a family it must buy a high-quality house in high-cost central Auckland, but pay only the average house price New Zealand wide. Everyone knows it can’t be done. And that’s because it can’t.’
Mr Reynolds said this was why government removed the word ‘free’ from the name of the 20 Hours policy, why it allowed for both optional charges and donations, and why many centres were ‘absolutely dependant’ on this money.
Centres did not write the 20 Hours policy, he said. But they were stuck with making it work. And the choice for parents was simple. They could either support their centres. Or they could stand by and watch education and care standards fall for their children.
Minister of Education Hekia Parata was ‘absolutely correct’ when she advised parents unhappy with fees to shop around, and the Early Childhood Council had always encouraged this, Mr Reynolds said.
‘Let parents compare quality at centres with and without fees. And then let them make the choice they think is best for their own children.’
The Early Childhood Council has more than 1000 member centres, about 30% of which are community-owned and about 70% of which are commercially owned. Its members employ more than 7000 staff, and care for tens of thousands of children.