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Free early childhood education to go with National

1 June 2005

Free early childhood education to go under National

New plans by National to scrap the proposed 20 hours of free early childhood education for families are a hint of spending cuts to come under the party's tax policy, Education Minister Trevor Mallard said today.

"Bill English - who last year attacked me for suggesting he would ditch the free 20 hours - has now confirmed to an early childhood conference recently that the party opposed the policy. (see below)

"We know that National is scrabbling to work out how to fund its promised tax cuts, and families are now slowly starting to find out where Don Brash intends the axe to fall.

"Not only has Bill English rejected the 20 hours free early childhood education that our government intends to put in place at community-based, teacher-led centres from 2007, he has also rejected the solid research underpinning that policy.

"As I have repeatedly said, that research shows that regular, quality and intensive early childhood education makes a positive impact on children's learning later in life. These findings are entirely consistent with other major studies undertaken in the United States and the United Kingdom. Bill English and his party have clearly decided it is much cheaper to ignore those findings and scrap the policy.

"This would mean around 86,000 children and their families around New Zealand will miss out.

"The policy of 20-hour free early childhood education at community-based teacher-led services sits alongside extra funding for private services. Of the $546 million (GST exclusive) set aside in Budget 2005 to pay for the new funding system until 2008-09, private services will receive an estimated $245 million or 56 per cent.

This totally puts paid to claims by National that private centres miss out while community centres get everything." The research includes a New Zealand study - the Competent Children research series, undertaken by the independent research organisation New Zealand Council for Educational Research.

It has so far followed a group of around 500 Wellington region children from age 5 to age 12, and measured their key competencies and what affects their learning. It is available on www.minedu.govt.nz/goto/cc12 . Competent Children at 14 is due to be completed this year.

Bill English quote: "And that is why we oppose the 20 Hours Free policy. There's no research base for it whatsoever, it's not based in any evidence, there's no socio-economic reason for that policy. " Early Childhood Council conference, Wellington, 13 May 2005

ENDS

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