Well-being of children and families a welcome focus
“Placing the well-being of children, families and whānau centre-stage of the government’s budget is to be applauded” said Clare Wells, Chief Executive NZ Kindergartens.
“Shifting the focus to investing in families in long overdue. We need to do better by children and the government has made its intentions clear” said Clare Wells. “The pressures on families and implications for young children of limited household income and poor housing are undeniable.”
The budget provided $590.2 million to the early childhood education (ECE) sector. “One in five children in the education system today attends an ECE service – around 95% of children under five years old” Clare Wells said. “The government recognises that services have a critical role to play in the lives of young children.”
“The Prime Minister’s announcement of increased funding to support children with additional learning needs was well received by the sector this week. “We know identifying and addressing behavioural or language needs early for example, gives children a greater chance of success as they progress through their schooling years.”
Although we welcome the extra funding announced in the Budget, most is to meet expected growth in participation. “The 1.6% ($104.8 million) increase in funding to services is a step towards addressing the funding shortfalls of the past decade, however it is nowhere enough. For kindergarten, the funding rate will remain lower than it was in 2008.”
“Funding participation comes at the expense of the quality of services – that has been evident across the sector over the past 10 years” Clare Wells said. “We know the critical difference teachers can make to children’s learning. While the NZK network of associations have maintained the commitment to 100% qualified and registered teaching workforce, the financial pressure has been significant. It’s untenable over the long term.”
“We are ambitious for children and for early childhood education. We want to make sure whatever service choice parents and caregivers make for their young children, it is the highest quality teaching and learning experience. We can’t afford it not to be” Clare Wells said. “This Budget is a first, small step – we have high expectations of a bolder and more ambitious Budget in 2019.”