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Progress in early childhood education - Mallard

Hon Trevor Mallard
1 July 2003 Speech Notes

Embargoed until:6pm

Progress in early childhood education

Speech to the Early Childhood Symposium, The Jubilee Centre, Auckland

Thank you for the invitation to address you.

I’m keen to use this time with you to update you on progress with the wide range of things happening across early childhood education.

You will not need reminding today of our Government’s strong commitment to early childhood education.

Two months ago I released the statement on education priorities for New Zealand.

The document pulls together the programmes, initiatives and hard work going on right across the education sector to establish two key goals for the next three years.

- To build an education system that equips New Zealanders with 21st century skills;
- To reduce the underachievement in education that is experienced by some groups in New Zealand.

The achievement of both goals, but particularly the second, trace directly to the need for more young New Zealanders to participate in quality early childhood education.

This Government wants every child, regardless of their background, to have the right start in life, and the chance to develop to their full potential – in education and later in life, in work.

It’s our firm belief that we need that as a society, and we need that as a growing knowledge economy.

The “Education Priorities” document pulls together all the strategic planning this Government has done and is doing for education.

It shows how common goals and priorities are woven throughout all levels of education: early childhood, schools and tertiary.

The 10-year plan for early childhood education, Pathways to the Future: Ngä Huarahi Arataki is a good example of how this strategic approach is working in practice.

Most of you know that a working group of early childhood education sector representatives helped develop the plan.

Pathways to the Future therefore represents the shared vision of the early childhood education sector and the Government.

To achieve the goals of the plan we have to ensure that there is a cohesive, integrated and streamlined approach with all the relevant early childhood education experts in the public service under one roof.

That’s why I decided to integrate Early Childhood Development (ECD) into the Ministry of Education.

The expertise of the Early Childhood Development agency staff will be critical to work on Pathways to the Future.

The agency’s work has focussed on meeting the needs of groups with lower participation rates, and working with families.

This work is an integral part of the new direction in early childhood education.

Pathways to the Future has three goals:
- To increase participation;
- To increase quality; and
- To promote collaborative relationships.

Beneath each goal are several important bits of work that will happen over the next few years, which I’ll go through now.

Last year we announced a network planning and support initiative.

This policy is all about the Government working side-by-side with communities to help ensure better access to quality early childhood education services.

It includes working with communities to establish new services where they are in short supply.

It means working with existing services to ensure that they meet local needs.

We are carrying out the network planning and support in two stages.

The first started last year.

It involves taking a good look at the current network of services and setting up new community-based ones where gaps are identified.

Possible ways forward include identifying groups that could be given priority for funding from the Discretionary Grants Scheme.

But we’re also looking at other ways of providing property for community-based early childhood education services where communities are struggling to do this themselves.

We know, of course, that property alone is not the answer.

Stage two of this work kicks off this year.

It will be about working with community-based services where participation is low to identify ones that need extra help and looking at ways to support them.

One of the important messages of Pathways to the Future is that by 2012, all regulated staff will have to be registered teachers.

That’s why we are spending a lot of our energy on lifting the numbers of qualified teachers already in the sector - and attracting more to come in.

To date we have been:
- Promoting early childhood education teaching as a career and providing help and incentives to undertake teacher education;
- Working with teacher education providers to provide and develop courses that meet the needs of teacher trainees; and
- Giving help to services for the costs of staff upgrading qualifications.

In 2002/03, 430 incentive grants were given to early childhood education services to meet some of the costs of their staff upgrading their qualifications.

Under the Recognition of Prior Learning initiative, a total of 447 people got help to gain recognition for prior learning and skills in this financial year.

In May this year I announced that six centres of innovation have been chosen to build a strong research base to inform and develop models of best teaching practice.

This landmark initiative aims to capture the experience of the people working at the early childhood education grass-roots level - the ones most likely to provide innovative ideas.

A köhanga reo, playcentre, Pasifika early childhood education service, education and care service and two kindergartens have been selected for the next three years.

We want to consolidate the good teaching and learning practices happening in these centres, in collaboration with researchers.

That information will then be provided to other early childhood education services.

Another key piece of work I want to flag today is the research that will be happening with playcentres, köhanga reo and licence-exempt playgroups.

This is in line with the commitment made in Pathways to the Future to support the services provided by parents and whänau.

Strong parental and community involvement is a vital ingredient here.

That’s why we want the research to look at three broad categories of outcomes: for children, parents, and whänau/ community.

I want to stress that the aim of this research is only to help us understand how we can better support what parents and whänau are doing.

The building of strong relationships is also important.

You may be aware that the Government and Te Kohanga Reo National Trust recently signed an agreement which is about strengthening the relationship between both parties so that there are quality results for both whänau and mokopuna.

The Government and the trust are committed to working closely to deliver on the shared goals of quality early learning, survival of Te Reo Mäori, and participation of tamariki and matua in a whänau and Mäori cultural environment.

A key part of implementing Pathways to the Future is the current comprehensive review of regulations and funding led by the ministry.

It is taking a long hard look at all aspects of regulation and funding.

A consultation document outlining issues will be produced later in the year that will be backed up by a series of meetings.

I encourage you to go along to the consultation meetings and have your say.

While the funding review is underway, we still need to ensure that current funding levels keep up with increasing costs.

As part of this year’s Budget, spending on early childhood education increased by $55 million. This included a 1.9 per cent increase in funding rates from 1 July 2003 to compensate services for increased staff and operational costs.

We’ve also put in an additional $1.6 million in capital grants to provide property for licensed early childhood education services in areas where there aren’t enough services to meet demand.

An additional $1.4 million will be spent over the next four years for the Mäori/Pasifika early childhood education teacher scholarship programmes, aimed at increasing the number of qualified Mäori and Pasifika early childhood education teachers.

And there will be an extra 70 more early childhood education incentive grants a year as a continuation of our commitment to helping early childhood education services to get their staff to upgrade qualifications.

It’s important that we understand the continuing impact of Pathways to the Future on the sector.

That’s why we have a longitudinal evaluation to chart the progress of particular initiatives, as well as the impact of the plan as a whole.

The evaluation will last the 10-year life of the plan.

As you can see, the strategic plan is already proving to be a lightning rod for the early childhood education sector, with a whole lot of activities underway across a whole lot of fronts.

I hope this tiki tour of the progress to date in the implementation of Pathways to the Future has been helpful – and I now look forward to your questions.

ENDS

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