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Labour on early childhood education

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Labour's early childhood education policy released today will have a major impact on improving quality across the sector, Labour education spokesperson Trevor Mallard said.

Trevor Mallard said Labour would tighten up the criteria that enabled early childhood centres to access the higher than base funding rate. The new criteria would require higher staff-to-child ratios, increased staff qualifications and smaller group sizes.

"It's a major area of investment for Labour but we see it as crucial to lifting standards in the entire education system," Trevor Mallard said.

"There is ample research to show that children who have had a quality early childhood education do better at school. Labour wants more children to have that boost at the start of their lives.

"Like all levels of education, the quality of the teacher is integral to the quality of education provided. This has to start off with the initial training and qualifications and Labour plans to review the shape and quality of teacher education provision, in conjunction with the Education Council.

"There will also be registration of early childhood teachers which will include a requirement for ongoing professional development.

"Equity funding will be introduced in the year 2001 to help centres servicing low socio economic communities and rural areas overcome some of the barriers they face, and for programmes to encourage greater Maori and Pacific Island families into early childhood education.

"We will also increase capital works funding for the early childhood sector including help for communities to establish licensed centres where there is a significant need. This is likely to have a particular benefit for Pacific Island early childhood education provision.

"As a way of relieving some of the specific pressures in high growth areas, we will develop designs for relocatable buildings which can be used in areas of urgent or temporary need.

"We will improve the links between early childhood education and schools by involving the early childhood sector more in the development of key education decisions.

"The Government's literacy taskforce is a key example of where this did not happen. The taskforce included no early childhood education specialists and early childhood education was mentioned only three times in passing in the entire final report. Good literacy skills start well before a child goes to school and ignoring the early childhood sector was unwise.

"On a related note, Labour will also provide funding to extend a books in homes project to younger children in order to encourage younger children to feel positive and motivated about reading and books before they start school," Trevor Mallard said.

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