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Boost for Early Childhood Education

The Government today signalled support for early childhood education with three initiatives that seek to increase participation and enhance quality in the sector.

Education Minister Trevor Mallard said the Government saw increasing participation and quality of early childhood education as a key tool to help meet its 'closing the gaps' challenge.

As a start, there would be an immediate injection of just over $3 million into the early childhood discretionary grants scheme. The scheme provides capital assistance to community-based, not-for-profit, early childhood services to help them reach or retain licensing standards.

"The funding announced today will go towards some of the projects that passed the eligibility criteria in the last funding round but missed out on a grant," Trevor Mallard said.

"It's expected to help at least 20 groups become licensed early childhood centres. Just under half will be Pacific Island centres.

"I know many Pacific communities in New Zealand that have all the will in the world but just don't have the means to raise all the funds needed for buildings. They meet in places like garages and old halls that they need to vacate when another group books in. What is really frustrating is that they have qualified staff who they cannot pay properly because their buildings do not meet criteria and they therefore miss out on funding.

"Last year the National government denied funding to 9 centres when they allocated $1 million to a Pacific pool. Through that action, they denied quality early childhood education to about 250 children and as a result opened gaps further. I am particularly pleased to be able to offer support to those communities to enhance the early childhood education they provide to their children."

Trevor Mallard said he had several early childhood education sector engagements over the next couple of weeks and had sought Cabinet approval to announce some small Budget initiatives early so he could talk openly about them.

The Budget announcements are:

 $150,000 over the next two years to develop an early childhood education strategic plan;
 $60,000 for a working party to develop criteria and costings for equity funding for the early childhood sector.

"In the school sector we recognise that the playing field is not even. A child's family background impacts greatly on how well they do in education. The State has a role to make up some of that difference in opportunity through the education system. But the school decile system may not be the right approach for the early childhood sector. The working group will be developing an appropriate system.

"I am also thrilled that we can start the ball rolling on developing a strategic plan for the early childhood sector.

"Since the National Government abandoned the 'Before Five' report of the last Labour Government, the sector has been dogged by an ad-hoc approach.

"This Government sees the early childhood sector as an integral part of the education system. It should not be considered an 'add-on' just because attendance is not compulsory.

"There is ample evidence to suggest that good quality early childhood education has lasting positive spin-offs for both the individual and society as a whole. A strategic plan will introduce coherency for the sector," Trevor Mallard said.


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