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Uncertain future for essential service

Uncertain future for essential service

Prime Minister John Key was suitably impressed by the Hunterville Mobile Kindergarten van during his recent visit to the Pirates Rugby Club in Taihape, August 12.

Under 2008 Ministry of Education licensing criteria, the mobile service cannot achieve recognition as a licensed kindergarten as it does not operate from licensed premises, so faces a loss of government funding come 2014.

Kindergarten Chairperson Marci Collier and Teacher Aide Paddy Brown parked the kindergarten van outside the rugby club during Mr Key’s visit and brought the uncertain future of the service to his attention during a question and answer session.

Mr Key said he is a “strong believer in the merits of early childhood education, but does not believe this education needs to be 100% teacher-led”.

He also said he is committed to supporting rural families and expressed his interest in looking at the mobile kindergarten van.

A letter from the Ministry of Education was also positive about ECE options for rural families however, there have been no guarantees as to the capacity in which the mobile kindergarten service will be funded post 2014, if it is to be funded at all.

The Hunterville Mobile Kindergarten service is essential for rural families who may otherwise be quite isolated.

Head Teacher Jodi Currie travels 450km per week to ensure children in eight different rural locations have access to quality early childhood education.

Mrs Collier said, “children gain independence through attending mobile kindergarten sessions”.

“Parents do not have to stay with their children at the sessions, they feel confident knowing their children are receiving quality education from a trained and registered teacher and smaller groups mean greater teacher interaction”, she said.

“It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of town kindergartens, but the children are buzzing, they’re so excited to be there. It’s almost like they appreciate it more.”

The kindergarten is social not only for children, but for parents and families as well. It draws rural communities together and provides opportunities for people to get to know their neighbours.

In the words of Ruahine Kindergartens Association President Sarah Johnston-Ellis, “agriculture is the backbone of the New Zealand economy and we must support rural families through the continuation of this essential service”.