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The end of an era for Hunterville Mobile Kindergarten

PRESS RELEASE

28 February 2014

The end of an era for Hunterville Mobile Kindergarten

Hunterville Mobile Kindergarten is closing its service at the end of Term One 2014. In operation since 1975, the kindergarten has been travelling by van over 400 kilometres each week, delivering quality early education to different locations throughout the Manawatu and Rangitikei districts. Of the nine original New Zealand mobile kindergartens, Hunterville’s closure means there will only be the Waimate service left in operation.

The decision to close Hunterville Mobile Kindergarten was made reluctantly by the Ruahine Kindergarten Association (RKA) Board this week following a review of the service. “We’ve been trying to meet the Government's push to increase childrens' participation in early childhood education, but have been shouldering the cost for some time”, says RKA General Manager, Alison Rudzki. “Hunterville Mobile Kindergarten has been an important part of our rural community for almost 40 years. Not only did the service provide quality early childhood education, we were also connecting people together and establishing critical links for children and their families to local schools – which is vitally important for those living in isolated areas”.

A number of factors were cited for the closure. The Government has indicated a need for increased participation in early childhood education, yet under existing licensing regulations it is challenging for mobile services to comply, as they operate from spaces not specifically designed to be kindergartens. For the past year RKA has worked with Waimate Kindergarten Association and New Zealand Kindergartens, lobbying the Ministry of Education for a funding review and amendments to the 2008 ECE licensing regulations.

“In particular, changes in demographics have had an adverse effect on Hunterville’s financial viability leaving RKA with no alternative other than to close its mobile service. However, while the current service isn’t viable, Ruahine Kindergartens continues to work with the Ministry of Education for the purposes of developing future sustainable mobile services funding models,” says Mrs Rudzki.

While their access to ECE subsidies will not change, families that have been travelling up to an hour to participate in the kindergarten sessions will need to access alternative services to gain early childhood education for their young children. A recent survey of families indicated that 75% already access other early childhood education services and some parents have indicated they would transfer their children to Ruahine Kindergartens in Marton and Feilding.

Hunterville Mobile Kindergarten staff and families have been consulted with through community surveys and discussions held at each venue. Ideas including sponsorship have been floated, but the huge operational cost, plus compliance with government standards meant any agreements would have to be long-term and substantial. A Special General Meeting will be held in March, as well as a celebration to thank the community for their long-term commitment and support to the service.

ENDS

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