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Early Learning Resilience Being Severely Tested

Early Childhood Education centres are being asked to weather COVID-19, the vaccine mandate and teacher shortages, while uncertainty about Pay Parity funding remains.

“Our sector is happy to play its part in re-opening the economy, but we’re under pressure on multiple fronts. Fewer children can attend in Level 3, which creates staffing challenges and can make reopening impossible,” said Early Childhood Council CEO Simon Laube.

Yesterday’s move to expand bubbles from ten to 20 children will mean more juggling for Auckland and Waikato centres in Level 3, but falls far short of what the ECC recommended. On top of this, mandatory vaccination requirements inevitably means some teachers will leave the sector during a severe teacher shortage.

Pay Parity funding from the Ministry of Education aims to close the gap between how teacher salaries are funded in most centres, and a small part of centre-based services like kindergartens. For most centres, the level of funding falls short of the increased wage bill.

“Many of our smaller early learning providers won’t have reserves to weather this storm. Centres are reluctant to increase parent fees, and we doubt the government would want further household cost inflation.”

“Teaching young children is a public service, and every early learning centre manager wants to pay their teachers what they’re worth. Pay Parity is the right direction, but this is not the way to get there.”

“Minister Hipkins has shown his commitment to teachers, and I remain optimistic that with further Government investment we achieve Pay Parity without losing early learning centres during this pandemic.”

“Our early learning centres are run by passionate people and their teams, so as we start to move away from lockdowns, let’s hope there will be enough early learning to go around as parents return to work,” said Laube.

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