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Mallard Speech: Bedding in Pathways to the Future

Bedding in Pathways to the Future

Trevor Mallard Speech to the New Zealand Kindergartens Inc Annual Conference, Wellington

Thank you for inviting me to address your conference. I understand that the theme of this year’s conference is “Absolutely, Positively, Kindergarten”.

This reflects the fact that the early childhood education sector - and kindergartens in particular - has much to be proud of.

The Government, too, is showing its continuing commitment to the sector. You saw this in the recent Budget, where we announced a $55 million injection of new funding over four years to ensure access for more children.

The extra money includes: An additional $1.6 million to provide property for licensed early childhood education services in areas where there aren’t enough to meet demand; An additional $1.4 million over the next four years for the Mäori/Pasifika early childhood education teacher scholarship programmes, to boost teacher numbers; and $4.5 million over the next two years to get a new funding framework up and running.

This additional funding is specifically targeted to help lift participation and raise quality.

A first rate start in education is what we want for all our young people.

We know that quality early childhood education makes a life-changing difference to the way children develop and go on to learn.

Our strong commitment to early childhood education is also expressed in the recently published, “Education Priorities for New Zealand”. This statement sets out two fundamental goals:

To build an education system that equips New Zealanders with 21st century skills; and To reduce the underachievement that is being experienced by some students in education. Getting more children into quality early childhood education will help us achieve these goals. The education priorities document pulls together all the strategic thinking this Government has done and is doing for education. It shows how common goals and priorities are woven through the whole education sector: early childhood, schools and tertiary. Last year’s release of a 10-year plan for early childhood education, Pathways to the Future: Ngä Huarahi Arataki set out future directions for your part of the sector.

As most of you know, the plan was shaped by a working group of early childhood education sector representatives.

Pathways to the Future therefore represents the shared vision for early childhood education in New Zealand of you, the sector itself, and the Government.

We are committed to working with you to get the very best for children, parents and whänau.

We will continue to build on the important foundations set by the Government and the early childhood education sector in Ngä Huarahi Arataki.

Pathways to the Future is a wonderful beginning. But now that we know where we are going, we need to start rolling up our sleeves to achieve our goals. It is time to pick up the hammer and nails and start building the house. Many parts of the sector have begun to work collaboratively with government, through the Ministry of Education, to determine future directions. Joining forces is part of the way the plan was envisaged. But just as government can get together with the sector for more effective change, I believe that sector groups should also get together with one another more successfully, and in this way achieve a stronger voice, rather than the current fragmented approach. I’m sure many of you know my views on this subject, but I would urge you to have a discussion with your colleagues about joining forces to bring about more co-ordination and co-operation between you. It’s good to see some kindergarten associations responding to local needs and demand for early childhood education from parents and caregivers. In some cases kindergartens have been able to increase their funding by offering more sessions that are better tuned into the needs of the community. I note that some associations have responded by offering full day services. Equity funding has also enabled associations to provide extra support for kindergartens in low socio-economic areas or areas where there are high numbers of Maori and Pasifika children. All this fits well with the goals of Pathways to the Future. Pathways to the Future does include some ambitious aims. A long hard look at regulations and funding is one of the ways we will start to achieve them.

A comprehensive review led by the Ministry is therefore examining all aspects of how government regulates, funds and supports early childhood education.

These are systems that have been built up over many years.

Over time heaps of ad hoc changes have been made.

The reviews are taking a top-to-bottom look to ensure we are meeting current and future goals.

I am determined that the result will be greater quality and reduced compliance costs for the sector.

This exercise also gives you a chance to have your say about how systems should work in the future.

A consultation document outlining the key issues will be published later in the year. There will be public meetings that will give the sector an opportunity to feed into the reviews. I encourage you to attend the consultation meetings and to add your voice. The Ministry is also funding a survey of all teachers and people working with children in the teacher-led part of the sector. This survey will be held in August this year and will include kindergarten teachers. We all want the best quality early childhood education for our children, and we know that well qualified teachers make a huge difference here. The Ministry wants to find out more about the early childhood workforce in teacher-led services. It is seeking better information about the issues that individual staff members are facing as Pathways to the Future is implemented. The information kindergarten teachers can provide is important, and will be used to build a stronger understanding of the early childhood education workforce. I encourage all kindergarten teachers to fill out this survey. In conclusion, as we move forward we must never lose sight of our goal of giving every single New Zealand child, regardless of their background, the chance to participate in quality education.

The Government is committed to working with the kindergarten sector to ensure that this goal is reached.

Thank you for your time today, and all the best for the remainder of your conference.

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