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Mallard Speech: New early learning centre opened

New early learning centre opened

Speech at opening of Rototuna Early Learning Centre

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Good afternoon everyone.

Thank you for inviting me to be part of this very special occasion - the opening of this wonderful new early childhood centre.

Congratulations to you all. I want to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the many people who have been involved in making this centre a reality. In particular chief executive of the Waikato Kindergarten Association Maree Stewart, trust board chairperson Michelle Jordan-Tong, and Rototuna Early Learning Centre manager Edna Frame.

You have designed a wonderful service that offers a stimulating environment that both kids and staff will enjoy, and it's fabulous to see such a useable covered outdoor space in among all these native trees.

I always look forward to attending openings like this one because, as you probably know, I have a special interest in early childhood education and am committed to getting our under-fives involved in quality learning environments.

While I am here I really pleased to be able to announce that Rototuna Early Learning Centre has been allocated establishment funding of almost $29,000 to help offset some of the staffing and equipment costs associated with setting up a new service.

Your centre will fill a real need for the families of Rototuna, offering an all-day community-based service that also caters for children under two years old. By helping to meet demand in a rapidly growing area, your centre provides parents with greater choice.

I would like to congratulate the association on taking this step, responding to community needs, which demonstrates initiative and progressive thinking. Having the management and governance support of the association will enable this service to be effectively run and offer a quality environment for children.

I do like the Waikato Kindergarten Association motto - Where children learn. With the centre established at the entrance to the new Rototuna Primary School site, it creates an opportunity for developing strong relationships. Establishing the foundations for children moving on to school is a real advantage.

The Labour-led government strongly believes in opportunity for everyone, which is why we are very committed to getting more under-fives into top quality and affordable early childhood education. That's why we are working actively to provide more choices for working parents.

On that note, I must remind you of what my opponents have promised to do to early childhood education. National has pledged to scrap our government's commitment to the 20 hours free policy.

This effectively means that around 86,000 children and their families will miss out, in order to help pay for that party's tax cuts.

Unlike National, where thousands of families and their children will miss out entirely, Labour believes that every child needs quality education at this age as well.

Putting kids in suburban backyards with ten other children and without qualified and trained teachers - as National plans will do - is a great leap backwards in terms of early childhood education in New Zealand.

It will destroy all the gains we are making and will make children vulnerable to abuse and poor quality care in unlicensed and unregulated situations - it will result in the sort of poor educational outcomes that New Zealanders have rejected for years.

How National intends to fund their policy of tax rebates is also a concern. We suspect Brash intends also scrapping the funding we are providing to build new centres and expand existing ones - like this one - to get more kids accessing good quality early childhood education.

In contrast, I am sure I do not need to reiterate my own and the Labour-led government's continued commitment to early childhood education, as we continue our focus on increasing participation in quality, affordable early childhood education.

Learning is at the heart of our Early Childhood Strategic Plan - Pathways to the Future: Nga Huarahi Arataki. This year the government has taken several further major steps in the plan's development.

This includes significant increases to the early childhood education funding rates. These new funding rates will better cover the daily costs centres face, such as hiring qualified staff so the costs are not passed on to parents.

Government funding for major early childhood education programmes also continues. New investment of $152 million over four years from this year's Budget will bring the total expenditure on early childhood education to $694 million by 2008-09, a massive increase of 140 per cent since 1999.

I strongly believe that quality early childhood education is the cornerstone of our education system.

Research tells us that access to quality learning environments offers great benefits to young children and gives them a solid foundation so they can take advantage of learning opportunities throughout their lives.

Today's ceremony celebrates the work put in by your association, the board and other supporting organisations. These quality facilities are a great credit to everyone involved, and will ensure your kids are receiving quality early childhood education that will set them up for life.

I wish you all the very best for the future and for the future of all the young children.

ENDS

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