NZ Kindergarten Senior Teachers’ Conference
Hon Trevor Mallard
Thursday 14 March Speech Notes
New Zealand Kindergarten Senior Teachers’ Conference
Thank you for this opportunity to address you today.
Your meeting is exploring the important and relevant topic of curriculum leadership in kindergartens.
Leadership - in the wider context- is vital to taking this sector forward.
This Government is proud of its record over recent years in forging partnerships with sector leaders.
Today I plan to discuss the work in train in such areas as pay parity, the strategic plan, lifting qualified teacher numbers, and equity funding.
We recognise that if we want a strong future as a country we have to get the early foundations right.
This is why this government is committed to increasing participation in quality ECE.
Kindergartens remain one of the key players in the sector, providing quality early childhood services.
The relationship between government and kindergartens has traditionally been a strong one.
Stronger partnerships with kindergartens and other ECE providers are vital to ensuring that our initiatives are delivered in way that meets the needs of all early childhood services.
In September last year the Pay Parity Working Group met.
This group included representatives from NZEI, Kindergarten Associations, and the Ministry.
They have briefed me on the benchmarks to translate kindergarten teachers (including head and senior teachers) to a unified teaching pay scale with primary and secondary teachers.
I look forward to the phasing in of pay parity from 1 July 2002 as part of the next Kindergarten Teachers Collective Agreement.
We must never stop reiterating the importance of ECE.
This is why we set up the Strategic Plan for ECE Working Group and asked members to develop a framework - or a road map - for policy development in ECE over the coming decade.
Work here was focussed around two main aims.
Firstly, we want to increase participation in early childhood services and, secondly, improve the quality of those services.
The working group was made up of a diverse group of sector based representatives that engaged in 15 months consultation with the early childhood sector.
Their final report made a huge contribution to the future direction of early childhood services.
The feedback the working group received also showed just how strongly Kiwis feel about getting ECE right.
We are still considering the working group’s final report and announcements about the plan can be expected over the next few months.
As senior teachers you will have a critical role in helping implement the Strategic Plan.
I will be looking to you to continue to provide leadership as kindergartens respond to the challenges of increasing participation and quality.
Peter Heaslip, one of your keynote speakers tomorrow, has neatly encapsulated one of the challenges here in the title of his presentation: ‘turning philosophy into practice’.
Research goes on to determine which factors influence quality education.
We know that teachers with a Diploma of Teaching make a real difference in educational outcomes for children
Kindergartens recognise this and require all their teachers to be qualified.
Ultimately we want to see the Diploma of Teaching (ECE) as the benchmark qualification for all early childhood teachers.
We recognise however, that this is a big task and is likely to take some time.
As a start the government has changed the qualification requirements for the purpose of licensing.
From 1 January this year, all new ‘persons responsible’ at a centre are required to hold a Diploma of Teaching (ECE).
People who are already existing ‘persons responsible’ have until 1 January 2005 to gain the same qualification.
We acknowledge that increasing qualification requirements places pressure on the supply of qualified ECE teachers.
We have therefore put in place a number of schemes to boost the number of qualified ECE teachers.
These include the Recognition of Prior Learning Scheme, Incentive Grants, and TeachNZ scholarships.
The urgent need for more Mäori and Pacific teachers in ECE led us to provide a number of scholarships for Mäori and Pacific people to study towards a Diploma of Teaching (ECE).
As many of you know, some groups in our society have lower participation in ECE than others.
To increase levels of participation, we set up the Promoting ECE Participation project.
This is now underway in Auckland, Waikato, Wellington and Canterbury.
Organisations are working closely with communities to develop local solutions to overcome barriers to ECE participation.
Feedback to date has indicated that access to ECE is one barrier to participation.
From your teaching experience many of you will know that some early childhood services face additional barriers in providing quality ECE.
These may occur because parents in the community are less able to financially contribute to the service or because the service may face higher costs due to high proportions of special needs children.
To address these barriers, the Government has decided to implement an Equity Funding regime.
The result will be an additional $30 million for eligible community-based ECE services over the next four years.
This money will target funding to licensed and chartered, community-based ECE services in low socio-economic communities.
It will also target those based in isolated areas, or ECE services which are based on a language and culture other than English; or have significant numbers of children with special education needs or from non-English speaking backgrounds.
A number of kindergartens, particularly those in low socio-economic areas, are likely to receive some of this funding.
The role that kindergartens have played in the history of New Zealand ECE has been significant.
In order to move forward the whole sector needs to strive for the goal of every New Zealand child having the opportunity to participate in quality ECE.
The government is committed to working with the sector to ensure that this goal is reached.