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Relief for Families

3 December 2004

Relief for Families

The Minister of Education's announcement that he intends to avert the closure of nearly 400 early childhood centres by rushing through a regulatory amendment is welcomed with relief by the Early Childhood Council.

"Extending the time period for provisional licences from the current 3 months to 12 months will give breathing space to centres in hard to staff areas such as Auckland, smaller provincial towns and rural areas" said Mrs Thorne, Chief Executive Officer of the Early Childhood Council.

"The Minister is making a sensible but temporary patch-up to an ill-advised policy that has perversely driven down quality" said Mrs Thorne.

Over the past four years centres have been progressively replacing their senior, experienced staff who hold the previously accepted qualifications with graduates with the new qualifications introduced by Trevor Mallard.

Despite their best efforts, they have not been able to employ enough staff with the new qualification in time to meet the 1 January 2005 deadline, with an estimated shortage of around 1200 teachers.

The Early Childhood Council has been telling the Minister, the Ministry of Education, and the media for the past two years that the early childhood sector is in the grip of a staffing crisis of monumental proportions. It has been frustrating that Trevor Mallard has taken so long to accept the extent of that crisis.

Here we are four weeks out from the introduction of the new qualifications regime and finally the Minister announces he is giving centres a reprieve.

"The Minister's announcement has last minute panic written all over it" said Mrs Thorne.

The stress that has been placed on the 400 centre managers, their staff and the 20,000 families who rely on their services for the care and education of their children could easily have been avoided had the Minister followed the advice of the sector when it first became obvious his deadlines were unrealistic and unachievable.

The Early Childhood Council represents the managers and owners of over 800 community owned and privately owned services throughout New Zealand.


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