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Ministry bungle puts childcare centres at risk

Hon Bill English

National Education Spokesman

30 July 2003

Ministry bungle puts childcare centres at risk

"Labour will have to change their policy to avoid the closure of up to 400 early childcare centres, currently servicing 13,500 children," says National's Education spokesman, Bill English.

"Trevor Mallard's officials have told him that a flawed and misguided analysis by the Ministry of Education means that hundreds of early childcare centres face closure when stringent new staffing regulations come into force on 1 January next year."

The regulations require childcare centre supervisors to be registered with a Teacher's Council approved qualification.

If centres cannot find suitable staff they will be forced to close.

"Documents released to me under the Official Information Act show that in May the Ministry woke up to the fact that an earlier report had failed to identify the ramifications of the new regulations and that hundreds more centres would be affected than previously thought," says Mr English.

In January the Ministry estimated that 142 centres were at risk of closure. By May the number had increased to as many as 400, more than 13,500 children will be affected.

"The closure of any centre will cause major disruption in the lives of both children and parents who are often dependent on their centre.

"Unless the Government changes tack, thousands of families could find themselves without childcare at the beginning of next year and they may not know it until it happens.

"This bungle shows just how out of touch the bureaucrats are with the day-to-day running of childcare centres.

"Among other things, the Ministry failed to note the fact that most centres require more than one supervisor to account for breaks, holidays and shift-work.

"These papers make it clear that the Ministry and the Government are more interested in appearing to be hard-line than actually accounting for the realities of early childhood education.

"The reality is that experienced teachers have been doing a great job, even if they have the wrong qualifications. Parents know good centres from bad and are in the best position to decide who should be there to look after their children when they can't be," says Mr English.


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