Budget a small nod in right direction for Early Education
Budget a small nod in right direction for Early Childhood Education
Today’s Budget offered a small increase for the majority of the early childhood education (ECE) sector.
All education and care services received an average 0.61% funding increase – around $3,000 per year for the average centre. However, this falls far short of inflation which grew by 2.4% since 2011 when all services last had a funding increase.
Nancy Bell, Chief Executive of NZCA Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa/NZ Childcare Association (NZCA), said that the small amount was welcomed, however most centres would continue to go backwards financially, albeit more slowly.
“The failure to meet rising costs for the bulk of ECE centres means quality will suffer, and middle New Zealand will have to pay more for their children to attend ECE.”
On the positive side, New Zealand’s most vulnerable communities will receive an additional boost with extra funding provided to equity centres. On average, the funding increase for centres located in low decile communities that receive equity funding was larger – around 2.3% on average (an average of $12,000 per equity centre per annum). This should enable those services to keep pace with rising costs without passing these on to parents.
“The boost for our priority communities is good news. However, all children in New Zealand deserve a high quality early childhood education. We’re committed to this but worried about our ability to deliver if funding doesn’t keep pace with inflation. In recent years many services faced significant funding cuts with the abolition of the 100% qualified funding band and also with the cuts to grants for professionally registered teachers. Many centres are under real pressure to retain and pay qualified teachers, provide good teacher-child ratios and keep fees manageable for parents after a nil increase last year. Those centres are under financial pressure which is not sustainable.
“Research clearly shows the value of ECE for children, long into their school years and later lives. Adequate resourcing at the beginning of the formal education journey is crucial.
“The Association appreciates that during tight fiscal times difficult decisions have to be made. However, ECE is a foundation stone for a healthy society and economy and continued investment is needed for New Zealand’s future.”