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Parata: Early Childhood Council Annual Conference

Hon Hekia Parata
Minister of Education

24 May 2013 Speech Notes
Speech to the Early Childhood Council’s Annual Conference, Rotorua
Tēnā koutou katoa and greetings to you all.

I’m really pleased to be able to join you all again at your annual conference.

I’d like to thank your President Maria Johnson, and Chief Executive Peter Reynolds for their welcome.

I would like to start by thanking you all for the work you do.

Children are our most important investment. The work you do in nurturing their development represents an invaluable contribution to New Zealand’s future wealth, health and happiness.

We all know the early years of a child’s life are a critically important window of opportunity.

Access to quality early childhood education helps develop a child’s full potential; the skills developed in early childhood form the foundation for future learning and success at school.

Research has consistently shown how important early childhood education is at the start of a person’s life.

That is why increasing the number of children attending ECE is part of this Government’s drive to raise achievement for five out of five of our children.

You all play a vital role in our education system so I wanted to take this opportunity today to talk you about last week’s Education Budget and what it means for you.

Ensuring each and every child gets a good education is the most important thing our Government can do to raise living standards, and create a more productive and competitive economy.

We have an education system that is among the best in the world.

Four out of five kids are successfully getting the qualifications they need from school and we must celebrate their success and the teachers and principals who make that possible.

But our Government’s education plan is about getting five out of five.

We want all our kids to be leaving school with the skills they need to reach their potential in the modern economy. That means lifting up those who are being left behind, and encouraging those who are doing well to do even better.

Too many of the kids falling behind are Māori and Pasifika learners, those who come from low socio-economic homes, or have special needs.
We can, and must, do better for them. We don’t have a generation to waste.

Last week’s Budget is about delivering on our Better Public Service Targets.

We are investing in all the parts of the system that contribute to lifting educational achievement for all young New Zealanders from the very young to those who are training or retraining for the workforce.

In Budget 2013 we are increasing spending on education for the fifth Budget in a row.

We are investing over $500 million in new money into education which takes the Government’s total investment for the 2013/14 financial year to just over $9.7 billion.

New Zealand’s total education investment now sits at 7.2 per cent of New Zealand’s GDP – well above the OECD average of 5.8 per cent.

This year’s Budget delivers $901 million over five years for operating initiatives to lift educational achievement at every level of the system - from early childhood, to primary, to secondary and into training for work.

In addition, $144 million has been set aside in contingencies, to be drawn down as decisions are made – which means we are spending $1.05 billion on initiatives over five years.

Nearly 90 per cent of Vote Education is demand-driven. For example, this year we are spending $3.6 billion on teachers' salaries, $1.4 billion on early childhood subsidies, and $1.2 billion on schools' operations grants.

To help us achieve our goal of five out of five – we have set Better Public Service targets for early childhood education participation and secondary school achievement. We have also set a target at the critical bridge of National Standards.

We want to see 98 per cent of all school entrants having participated in quality ECE in 2016, and 85 per cent of all 18 year-olds having achieved NCEA Level 2 or an equivalent qualification in 2017.

At primary and intermediate school level the Government is aiming to get 85 per cent of students at, or above, the National Standards in 2017.

These targets are ambitious but as I said earlier, we don’t have another generation to waste.

Early Childhood Education

It all starts with quality early childhood education.

We know that regular participation in early childhood education significantly increases a child’s chance of future educational success, particularly for children from vulnerable families.

That is why our Government is investing more than ever in ECE.

In this year’s Budget we have increased expenditure in ECE to $1.5 billion, up from $860 million in 2007/2008.

This means that New Zealand’s annual expenditure per child in early childhood education is the second highest in the OECD.

That’s also why we have set a Better Public Service Target of 98 per cent of children starting school will have participated in early childhood education in 2016.

At the moment around 95 per cent of our children are participating in ECE. That’s around 2,500 more early children more than at the same time last year.

For Māori children, the participation rate increased by 1.4 per cent to just under 92 per cent, or about 14,000 (of the 15,300) children, who started school this year.

For Pasifika children the participation rate increased by 1.9 per cent to around 88 per cent, or 6,700 (of the 7,600) children, who started this year.

This is great work, but we must go further, and we must do more.

We estimate that to get to 98 per cent we need 3,000 more children participating every year, of which 1,750 will need to be Māori children and 1,350 Pasifika children.

To help us achieve that we are investing a further $80.5 million into ECE to cater for the additional children participating.

This funding is broken down into two categories:

$24 million over four years has been allocated to trial new outcomes–based purchase agreements with providers of ECE, and establishing key relationships with community organisations and non-government organisations.

The new outcomes-based purchase agreements will give providers responsibility, and incentives, for raising participation in targeted areas.

The Government recognises that organisations know their communities and are likely to have ideas for how to engage with them and support families to participate in ECE.

This is a new way of working that will see Government operating closely with those providers, to achieve better outcomes for our most vulnerable children.

The Government has also appointed an Early Learning Taskforce, which will work in local communities where participation is low. The additional funding will allow the Taskforce to scale up this work.

For example, more Community Action Groups will be established this financial year.

These Groups are made up of people in priority communities who have the interest, drive and connections to increase ECE participation in their community; people who have come together to create community specific goals and plans to generate demand for ECE.

The groups drive local initiatives such as play-days, encourage and support families to engage with early learning, and reduce barriers to participation in ECE. Many of you may be already involved in this activity. If you are not, I encourage you to do so.

The remaining $56 million over four years has been allocated to cover the costs of the increased number of children participating in ECE (ECE subsidies).

We are also increasing equity funding, with $41.3 million being invested over four years to support those ECE services that work with children from our most vulnerable communities.

Funding will go to services in low socio-economic communities and those which deliver ECE in languages other than English (such as te reo Māori or Pasifika languages).

We expect that services receiving Equity Funding will use the increased funding to:

• Increase the enrolment and participation of children from the priority groups.

• Keep ECE fees low for priority families to support their participation.

• Encourage and support family/whānau to actively engage with the early learning outcomes of their children.

• Improve language acquisition.

All of this will benefit our most vulnerable members of society and demonstrate our commitment to ensuring ECE is a focal point for our education system.

We are also investing $12.1 million in a performance fund to provide high intensity intervention in poorly performing ECE services.

We are continuing to support the 20 hours ECE subsidy rates, and are providing a 2 per cent cost adjustment to the non-salary component of universal ECE subsidies at a cost of $38.6 million over four years.

ECE is 31.6 per cent more affordable than it was before the 20 Hours ECE was introduced in 2007

Early Learning Information system (ELI)

As part of our drive to increase participation, we want to bring information systems for ECE up to date. At the moment, there is no comprehensive national system able to collect information on early childhood education attendance.

Already a number of you use a student management system to manage your attendance data, but are unable to send it to the Ministry electronically.

With the introduction of the new Early Learning Information System project, or ELI system, this won’t be a problem anymore.

ELI is a new information system for early childhood education. It will collect, and store, for the first time, identity and participation information for approximately 190,000 learners at ECE level.

It will work by assigning a unique identifier, the National Student Number, to a child when they first enrol in ECE. This will then enable it to collect and store enrolment and attendance information about individual learners attending ECE.

The Early Learning Information system is under development, and will be rolled out to ECE services progressively from February 2014.

This new system will increase the quality and volume of information on participation in ECE and allow us to accumulate better evidence on the value of early childhood education.

ELI is about capturing participation information once, and using it for multiple purposes. Information on how long each child attends an education service, how many services children are attending, and at what age a child starts ECE.

This will build up a body of information for research and development.

Over time, as children go on to school and tertiary education, the information collected in ELI is expected to demonstrate the benefits of ECE.

It will allow us to draw explicit connections between early childhood education information and other education information. The information collected will help to identify how early learning supports later educational achievement.

This, in turn, will help to improve the Ministry of Education’s ability to design ECE policy. At present, the Ministry does not collect information on individual learners until they enrol in school.

It will also allow the Ministry to identify which children participate in ECE, and how much they participate.

As part of the bigger picture, the information provided by the ELI system will also support achievement of Government’s goals for vulnerable children.

By accumulating a record of each child’s attendance at ECE, it will enable a better focus on the needs of individual children, particularly those children who require additional support to participate regularly in ECE.

The information that ELI provides will also help us understand participation patterns, including providing more information on cases where children do not attend ECE at all.

ECE Curriculum reports and methodology

Next week ERO will be releasing two reports about curriculum in early childhood services

Essentially these reports are about the unique nature of each service’s curriculum – how the everyday programme you provide responds to the children who attend. Te Whāriki has a key role in your curriculum and in supporting all children to become competent and confident learners.

Working with Te Whāriki

ERO’s report on how services are working with Te Whāriki highlights the different ways teachers are using the principles and strands to inform their practice. A very strong message is the importance of Te Whāriki as a curriculum that helps services to define what they value and believe about children and their learning.

The broad nature of the curriculum framework of principles and strands allows for many different interpretations and accommodates the diverse approaches to ECE in the sector. ERO found that some services were quite selective in their use of the principles and strands in ways that limited children’s access to the full intent of the curriculum.

ERO’s findings challenge services to work more in-depth with Te Whāriki to evaluate the effectiveness of their curriculum to achieve the best outcomes for children.

The report also provides the Ministry of Education with information to inform future decisions about a formal review of Te Whāriki.

Strengthening Early Learning Opportunities for children, families, whānau and communities through teaching 2013 – 2015 (SELO)

Of course, early education isn’t restricted to what occurs in an ECE setting – it includes all of a child’s experiences at home as well. That is why we need to make sure we are working in partnership with parents, families and whānau.

The work we are doing to raise achievement cannot be done alone – we need to work for, and with, communities, because we cannot support and encourage learning on our own.

Working with families and communities means knowing how best to help and support them, as they work to help and support their children.

That is why we are introducing a new professional development programme, called SELO in 2013-2015.

This stands for “Strengthening Early Learning Opportunities” and is designed to improve the learning opportunities for children, parents, whānau and communities through teaching.

We know how important professional development can be in improving the quality of ECE services and increasing learning outcomes for children.

It can also help increase the language and cultural intelligence of teachers and educators.

Programmes like this are not only about making sure our children are engaged in their learning and have the best environment and tools they need for this.

They are about ensuring everyone – services, teachers, parents and caregivers, whānau – understand the role they have to play in children’s education.

Rotorua Education Initiative

No single institution – no ECE centre, no school or kura – can create all the conditions young people need to flourish.

It takes the involvement of parents, families, whānau and a contribution and commitment from everyone in the community to support and encourage our children as they grow.

Collaborative efforts by ECE providers, schools, families, whānau and local organisations help to strengthen families and communities, help prevent young people dropping out, and improve educational outcomes.

And because schools, communities, and families play interconnected roles in this crucial mission of educating children, they must find ways to work together as educational partners.

We have just announced this morning that - right here in Rotorua, we will soon be starting an initiative that is focused on ensuring communities work together to solve their education problems.

Government agencies, including the Ministries of Social Development, Health, Education and Justice and the New Zealand Police, will work together, with the Rotorua community, to find local answers to local issues that will help improve educational achievement for the young people of the city.

It’s one of a group of initiatives focusing on improving the quality of life for young New Zealanders.

The Rotorua Initiative is focused on success in education starting from birth. This unique approach will focus on ages 0-18 years.

The programme allows communities to work with local early childhood services, schools, kura kaupapa Māori and tertiary organisations to deal with the issues that affect their children’s learning.

This is a huge opportunity to lead, and focus, the resources of the Rotorua community on ensuring the educational success of our children.

One of the five focus areas of the Rotorua education initiative is to target increased participation in Early Childhood Education.

Its success will rely on everyone putting education first, and working together for all our children and young people.

A successful model in Rotorua could lead the way for similar approaches in other communities.


We have high expectations for our education system.

Ensuring each and every child gets a good education is the most important thing our Government can do to raise living standards, and create a more productive and competitive economy.

And that has to start at the very beginning, with early childhood education. High-quality early childhood education helps prepare children start school confident, engaged and eager to learn.

Education is a passport to a better life. Learning is earning. That’s why our education plan is focused on raising achievement for five out of five of our kids. We want all our learners to realise their potential, and we want to create Kiwis that can fly!

We highly value the work that you do in preparing our youngest and most vulnerable Kiwis for a life of learning.

Thank you.


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