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Free early childhood education to be extended

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister of New Zealand

Hon Trevor Mallard
Minister of Education

Media Statement
22 August 2005

Free early childhood education to be extended

Prime Minister Helen Clark and Education Minister Trevor Mallard today announced more help for families and children, with a new policy that will extend 20 hours free early childhood education to all licensed teacher-led services from 2007.

"Labour is committed to ensuring every single child has the chance for the best possible start to their life. Giving children access to good quality and affordable early education is a critical part of this commitment," Helen Clark said.

"The policy I am announcing today means that the 20 hours free education a week will be able to be provided for three and four years olds at any licensed teacher-led service in New Zealand from July 2007.

"We are making this commitment, because we know through national and international research, that if a child receives quality education before they get to school, then they do significantly better in education later on.

"Our policy benefits everyone, not just working parents – the focus is on quality education, not simply child minding.

"Under Labour families accessing these services will be around $90 a week better off (or $4,680 per year) for each child as it reaches the eligible age."

Trevor Mallard said the planned expansion of the 20 hours free policy to more early childhood education services than originally planned was possible due to the stronger than expected government accounts. It will cost about $53 million on top of the estimated $52 million annual cost previously budgeted for.

"This is part of a progression in policy. Kindergartens have traditionally been free, the next step was to include community-owned centres, and now all licensed, teacher-led centres will be included.

"Under the policy, children at an estimated 1,000 extra services would benefit, on top of those attending the estimated 1,300 teacher-led community-based services that were already going to access the free 20 hours.

"Our policy will also see a review of the funding assistance that playcentres receive. Playcentres are not teacher-led but we recognise the important role they also play for under-fives so we will review the funding arrangements to ensure they are fairly resourced."

The early childhood education policy summary, examples of how families are better off under Labour compared to National, a fact sheet and questions and answers are attached.

ENDS

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