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Labour backs Kentucky Free Childcare

Labour backs Kentucky Free Childcare

Labour has backed down on its promise to deliver free public pre-school education with its announcement that it will put public money into private childcare.

The Alliance hailed Labour's promise to provide 20 hours of free education a week for all three and four year olds at non-profit, community-run centres such as kindergartens and kohanga reo.

The move was also supported by the Early Education Federation representing 17 national organisation educating more than 100,000 children, and by the early childhood educators' union NZEI Te Riu Roa.

Only the private providers, many of them multinational corporations opposed the plan, says Alliance co-leader Jill Ovens.

The childcare industry is dominated by three big chains: Kidicorp, which is listed on the Stock Exchange and has 62 centres; Kindercare, unlisted with 28 centres; and the Australian-owned ABC, which has 20 centres in New Zealand.

"Mallard is backing the KFC model of childcare that not so long ago he was criticising," Ms Ovens says.

The Alliance says high quality early childhood education is one of the keys to our future as a nation.

But the goal of private providers is to make a profit for their shareholders or private owners. Their childcare centres are usually in high or middle-income areas where there is greater opportunity to realise profits out of both parents and the properties.

"Community-run centres are accountable to their community and they are more likely to be in low-income communities where the need for free early childhood education is greatest." Ms Ovens says research shows community-run centres provide better quality education for children.

"Public money would be far better spent on building new community or public early childhood centres on existing school sites to assist integration of early childhood and schools," she says.

Equity funding and special needs funding for pre-schoolers would be extended by the Alliance in Government, including the very under-resourced early intervention system for children with disabilities.

Trained early childhood teachers would be offered expert development to help them identify, respond to and seek help for learning and developmental disorders in young children -- before they get to school.

And the Alliance supports pay equity for early childhood teachers to be implemented as quickly as possible.

"What parents want and our children need is high quality public education from early childhood to tertiary, not more market and deregulation," Ms Ovens says. -End-

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