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Early Childhood Education Sector In Crisis – Pre-Budget Survey Reveals

More people than ever in the early childhood education (ECE) sector think it is heading in the wrong direction and that there will be no improvement, at least not over the next 12 months.

The quality of ECE for children in the sector has worsened. The sector is also struggling to retain qualified ECE teachers and experienced teachers in particular.

The annual ECE sector survey of 1000 people carried out by the Office of Early Childhood Education found that nearly two-thirds think the government is taking the sector in the wrong direction. This is compared to just 21% who think it is heading in the right direction.

Just 4% of respondents felt that the sector was going to improve over the next 12 months, with the rest thinking it will, at best, stay the same and, at worst, go further downhill.

The results continue the downturn in confidence seen over the past four years.

Survey respondents said ECE was the forgotten part of the education sector. Most 2017 pre-election promises made by Labour were not yet made good, this includes improving group sizes, improving adult:child ratios, and regulating for 80% ECE qualified teachers.

The majority of respondents did not have confidence in the Minister of Education to deliver pay parity as promised, with some saying that trust had been broken. Insufficient progress was being made and the Ministry of Education was gatekeeping and delaying all but beginning teachers from receiving pay equivalent to what kindergarten and school teachers are paid. Moreover, not all beginning ECE teachers benefited, the sector was losing experienced and senior teachers, and those left to carry the load were finding it too much.

The quality of ECE for children is perceived by most respondents to have worsened - 64% said quality had worsened and a further 23% had seen no change and no improvement. “NZ was once a leader in ECE. We should be ashamed of the care now being offered to our children”, said one respondent. “It has become child farming not child care,” said another.

Chief Advisor of the Office of Early Childhood Education (OECE), Dr Sarah Alexander, says she is not surprised that the survey reflects such a bleak outlook.

“The results are consistent with previous surveys and other evidence from the Ministry of Education and other sources. There are significant policy and funding issues and a lack of oversight for the sector such that the quality of ECE for children is now being severely impacted.

What this latest survey shows that is new is that it would appear there is a real danger that the rot has set in. Can things get any worse? I would hope not.”

“Political leaders needed to be held to account. If the public were aware of what is happening to and in the ECE sector, then they could think about how these issues impact the standard of education and care provided to children and the costs to our society of not having an effective high-quality early education system. The ECE sector is in desperate need of better support”.

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