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20 Free ECE Fund May Adversely Affect Montessori

Media Release
December 11 2006

20 Free ECE Funding May Adversely Affect Montessori in NZ

A new funding policy for early childhood services in NZ may have a detrimental effect of the ability of NZ families to access Montessori education in the future, say Montessori Association of NZ Co-Presidents Jan Gaffney and Sophie Hamilton.

Up to 20 hours ’’ free’’ early childhood education is to be introduced to all teacher-led early childhood education services, including Montessori, from 1 July 2007. The government expect this proposed 20 Hours Free ECE policy will increase participation in early childhood education by NZ children.

The 20 Free ECE is limited to 3 and 4 year olds and the Montessori Association of NZ is concerned this aspect of the 20 Free ECE policy will jeopardise the provision of Montessori programmes in NZ in the future.

The Minister of Education, the Hon. Steve Maharey insists that the free access to education for 5 year olds is in state primary schools, although children do not legally need to be enrolled at primary school until 6 years of age. Five year olds can currently attend early childhood centres and could continue to attend under 20 Free ECE.

The Montessori Association of NZ is concerned that NZ families will face significant financial barriers to accessing Montessori education after their child turns 5, with a potential doubling of fees. Financial assistance provided by both ‘’free’’ ece and childcare subsidies will no longer be available to children over 5 years. These financial barriers will reduce the choices NZ families have for their child’s education.

Montessori education has been tried and tested around the globe for almost 100 years, celebrating a global centenary in 2007. Today Montessori is the most widespread educational philosophy with more than 8000 schools worldwide.

Five year olds are essential to the delivery of the Montessori early childhood programme. Without the experience of the third year of Montessori in a 3-6 year programme – the benefit of Montessori cannot be fully realised for the child.

‘’Children who stay in their Montessori 3-6 class as five year olds, move into their Montessori or state primary class with confidence and arrive ready to enter the more academic phase of learning, reading, calculating, writing, and are eager to discover more.’’ says Jan Gaffney.

The growth in Montessori primary through the country has lead to a growth in the number of Montessori early childhood centres keeping 5 year olds. The Montessori Association of NZ believes the potential loss of these children will not only affect Montessori early childhood centres, but the growing Montessori primary and adolescent movement. Currently around 160 children stay in Montessori early childhood centres as 5 year olds each year.

‘We are also concerned that the introduction of 20 Free ECE will result in low uptake by Montessori ece centres, if the funding rate offered will not be sufficient to continue to offer the quality Montessori programmes that children are currently experiencing. This may result in Montessori being seen by NZ families as ‘’expensive’’, when it is the aim of Montessori centres to be accessible to all families who desire this educational experience for their children.’’ concludes Sophie Hamilton.

There are currently 90 Montessori early childhood centres in NZ, 34 Montessori primary classes in state, private and state integrated schools and 2 Montessori colleges.

Approximately 3% of children attending early childhood services attend a Montessori ece centre.

MANZ website www.montessori.org.nz

ENDS

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