NZEI Te Riu Roa - New Zealand Educational Institute
ECE teacher recruitment crisis a casualty of 10-year funding freeze
29 October 2018
The acute shortage of early childhood education teachers is a direct result of 10 years of Government underfunding in the sector says NZEI Te Riu Roa.
Reports today that 30 per cent of ECE centres have unfilled vacancies for qualified teachers show the severe impact of the previous Government’s reduction in funding for centres with 100% qualified staff, and a 10-year virtual freeze on per-child funding.
NZEI ECE spokesperson Virginia Oakly said ECE services had cut their budgets to the bone in a desperate attempt to stretch their funding. Many had restructured, hired more unqualified staff, and increased child-to-teacher ratios and group sizes, which went against international best practice on providing quality ECE to children.
“During the election campaign, the parties in this current Government all talked about the importance of qualified teachers and quality ECE. We’re hopeful they will move soon to restore funding for services with 100% qualified teachers and significantly increase overall funding.
“The 1.6 per cent funding increase in this year’s Budget was the first increase in a long time but doesn’t do enough for services that are barely staying solvent,” she said.
“Despite the massive shortage of teachers, it’s actually rare for job applicants to be able to negotiate a higher pay rate because the money simply isn’t there,” said Ms Oakly.
“Unionised services such as kindergarten associations and those under the ECECA are generally perceived to have superior terms and conditions to profit-driven and non-unionised services that negotiate individual agreements.
“However, the entire sector is woefully underfunded and it’s no surprise that fewer people are training to become ECE teachers – the undervaluing of this profession is appalling,” said Ms Oakly.
NZEI has a pay equity claim underway, covering both qualified and unqualified ECE teachers, and the Govt has an opportunity to make a real difference by ensuring funding for settlements in the sector, and by fast-tracking their 10-year strategic plan for the sector.