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Early childhood education a worthwhile career

Early childhood education a worthwhile career

Trevor Mallard Speech to the annual meeting of the New Zealand Childcare Association: Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa, Skyline Restaurant, Wellington Thank you for the invitation to address your 40th Jubilee conference. It is a major milestone for any organisation – and I congratulate you for reaching it. Since 1963 your association has worked hard to promote and maintain high standards of education and care for young children in New Zealand. Our Government also sees quality early childhood education as critical in our goal of making sure that every New Zealander, regardless of their background, has the chance to achieve to their full potential.

Recently I released the statement on education priorities for New Zealand. The document pulls together the programmes, initiatives and the hard work that is going on right across the education sector.

It sets out two key goals.

First we aim to build an education system that equips New Zealanders with 21st century skills; and secondly we want to reduce the systematic underachievement in education that sees some students falling too far behind.

Achieving both goals, but particularly the second, traces directly to more New Zealanders participating in quality early childhood education.

The 10-year plan for early childhood education, Pathways to the Future: Ngä Huarahi Arataki shows how this will work in practice. Most of you know that a working group of early childhood education sector representatives helped develop the plan. This means it represents a shared vision of both the sector and the Government. 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.

Last year we announced a network planning and support initiative.

This policy is all about 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.

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

Another important goal of Pathways to the Future is that by 2012, all regulated staff in teacher-led services 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. Early childhood education teaching is a worthwhile career option and I’d like to encourage people to seriously consider taking it up – we are providing help and incentives for people to train. Our Government regards quality early childhood education as an essential element of a child’s learning and development, and to be a teacher who is playing a part in setting a child on the right path in life is surely a satisfying challenge. We’ve also been working with teacher education providers to provide and develop courses that meet the needs of teacher trainees.

And we are 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. Budget 2003 increased the number of incentive grants to 500.

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

Your organisation is an important provider of this project.

We have also given out scholarships to Mäori and Pasifika students studying towards the Diploma of Teaching (ECE). In Budget 2003, I increased the number of these scholarships by 70 to 175 – that’s 100 Mäori scholarships and 75 Pasifika.

We all want the best quality early childhood education for our children, and we know that well qualified teachers make a huge difference here.

Quality teaching is also about latching on to what we know works well and spreading the word.

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.

A köhanga reo, a playcentre, a Pasifika early childhood education service, an education and care service and two kindergartens have been selected as centres of innovation 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 out to other services – so best practice is not wasted but shared around for the benefit of everyone.

Your association, since it was founded in 1963 by Sonja Davies and Joyce Coss, has developed a proud history of commitment to the promotion of quality early childhood education for young children.

Tonight I am very happy to launch Concerning Women Considering Children.

Written by Victoria University’s Professor Helen May, this is a history of the work Te Tari Puna o Aotearoa/NZ Childcare Association has carried out over its 40 years of life.

I’m sure it will be an interesting and inspiring read for anyone who is involved in and dedicated to the care and education of young children.

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