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ECC Speaks out on Minister's Plan


ECC Speaks out on Minister's Plan


ECC acknowledges the good intentions of the Minister in attempting to
provide some coherency in the planning of government policies that relate to
the early childhood education sector.

ECC acknowledges the efforts that many have contributed to the process.

ECC is pleased that the value of early childhood education to New Zealand
society is recognised in the Plan and that the Government wishes to increase
the investment and actively promote early childhood education services.

ECC acknowledges many of the ideas have merit and the objectives are
generally positive, but that several key strategies are counter-productive
to the main aims of improved quality, access and participation.

ECC believes that the product however reflects a flawed process that was
cumbersome, poorly managed and subject to a moving terms of reference which
ensured the Minister's preferences were included. In addition ECC notes that
several dissenting views have been excluded and is of the view that it is
not therefore 'a shared vision'.

ECC notes that sadly, despite the pretty format, the Minister's strategic
plan fails the most basic test: It does not provide solutions to the 2
biggest problems: Staffing shortages and the high cost to parents from
increased under-funding by Government.

ECC is disappointed that the opportunity provided in this two year process
has been squandered by not providing solutions or even attempting to analyse
these two most important problem areas.

ECC notes the current teaching shortage crisis obvious in most of the
country has not been acknowledged and yet the plan recommends massive
increases in qualified staffing, which it infers might be achieved simply by
declaring it in regulation.

ECC has previously advised the Minister of its serious concerns that simply
increasing the level of qualifications and requirement for teachers has
meant artificially inducing staff shortages.

ECC continues to advise the Minister that his previous attempts to fiddle
with staffing requirements have led to significant increases in operating
costs and therefore parent fees; and so actually is reducing access and
participation, especially to working parents and people trying to move off
benefits. ECC believes that this situation will deteriorate further over the
next two years while the Minister works out his new funding plan.

ECC is seriously concerned that the Plan provides no assurance that the
supply of trained staff will exceed the number of staff leaving the sector,
in the near future and that the necessary numbers of qualified staff can be
retained.

ECC is also seriously concerned that the Plan's proposals to further
increase qualifications levels and staff:child ratios, if not preceded by
substantially increased operational grants, will lead to even higher
shortages and expect as a result that parent fees will have to increase by
over $75pw.

ECC is concerned that the Minister wants to create a wide range of
differential funding levels and is inferring that government funding will be
lower for those parents and children who choose centres which are managed by
private enterprises. ECC notes that these types of centres are the ones that
serve over 70% of NZ working parents.

The Minister has omitted mention of the fact that he has already announced
that the Government is committed to lifting the funding to just 20% of the
early childhood providers (free kindergarten associations) so that within 5
years funding rates for them will be more than 50% higher than that paid to
other Chartered early childhood providers. ECC expresses deep regret that
instead of using the last two years to also develop a plan for providing
funding parity with those privileged providers, he has simply inferred he
will spend another two years thinking about it for the bulk of the sector.
That is unacceptable favouritism.

ECC believes that the Minister's actions in providing immediate funding
increases for only a privileged group will reduce quality by decreasing
employer's ability to recruit and retain staff and will increase parents
fees.

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