Mallard Speech Early Childhood Council Conference
4 April 2002
Thanks for inviting me to speak to you today.
I note that the focus of your conference this year is on the importance of inspiring differences - and being inspired by differences.
This Government, too, recognises the importance of diversity in the early childhood sector.
This is why we remain committed to building stronger relationships with education and care centres.
We want to make sure that government initiatives are developed and provided in ways that meet the needs of early childhood services.
I want to start by once again underlining this Government’s strong commitment to ECE.
We see ECE as a key building block for our education system.
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.
All families and whanau should have access to ECE.
The Government considers that all children should be entitled to quality ECE.
New Zealand research such as Competent Children at 10 tells us that quality ECE continues to influence a child’s development - even five years after beginning school.
Society as a whole benefits from children participating in quality ECE.
These benefits include better social, educational and economic outcomes and increased social cohesion.
From learning about their language and culture, Maori and Pacific children gain increased self-esteem and confidence.
That is why Government is determined to ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to ECE.
It is why we set up the Strategic Plan for ECE Working Group and asked members to develop a framework - or a road map - for the coming decade.
Work on the plan had three main aims.
First, to increase participation in early childhood services, secondly, to improve the quality of those services, thirdly to reduce disparities in participation in quality ECE between Maori and non-Maori and Pacific and non-Pacific children.
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.
The feedback the working group received also indicated just how important ECE is amongst New Zealand society.
The Government is currently considering the final report and will be making announcements about the strategic plan over the coming months.
We are keen to see teachers, supervisors and owners of centres play an active role in implementing the plan.
We will be looking to people like you to continue to provide leadership as education and care centres respond to the challenges of increasing participation and quality.
A huge amount of work has been carried out to determine what influences quality education.
We know that teachers with a Diploma of Teaching make a real difference in educational outcomes for children.
Ultimately the Government would like 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 have 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).
Existing ‘persons responsible’ have until 1 January 2005 to gain the same qualification.
The Government recognises that increasing qualification requirements places pressure on the supply of qualified ECE teachers.
We have therefore put in place a number of schemes to achieve a significant increase in the number of qualified ECE teachers.
These include the Recognition of Prior Learning Scheme (RPL), Incentive Grants, and TeachNZ scholarships.
The RPL recognises prior learning by reducing the time needed to qualify with a Diploma of Teaching (ECE).
Any person can apply for this scheme that has worked in the ECE sector and is interested in becoming a ‘persons responsible’ by 2005.
The aim of incentive grants is to financially assist early childhood services to meet the new ‘persons responsible’ requirements by supporting staff to upgrade their qualifications.
The grant is paid directly to the service into the bulk funding account, and is worth a total of $2094 per year per student.
Statistics keep highlighting the need for Mäori and Pacific teachers in ECE.
We have therefore decided to provide a number of scholarships for Mäori and Pacific people to study towards a Diploma of Teaching (ECE).
In 2001, 105 scholarships were allocated to Mäori and Pacific people.
We are also developing a Pacific Diploma of Teaching (ECE) and intend to work with teacher education providers to assist them to provide courses based on this new qualification.
As many of you know, some groups in our society have lower ECE participation than others.
To boost these levels, the Government has implemented the Promoting ECE Participation project.
This is now underway in the Auckland, Waikato, Wellington and Canterbury regions.
Organisations are working closely with communities to develop community solutions to barriers to ECE participation.
In conclusion, I think everyone in this room shares a strong sense of how much ECE matters to the future of our kids.
To move forward, it is vital that this diverse sector makes a commitment to work together.
This will help us achieve the goal of every New Zealand child having the opportunity to participate in quality ECE.