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Little Comfort For Early Childhood Education In This Year’s Budget

Early childhood education services that are already financially stressed and struggling to retain teachers are unlikely to find much to smile about in this year’s Budget.

A cost adjustment to funding rates may be welcome news for ECE business owners worried about diminishing returns, but it is unlikely to be enough for services that are already overstretched.

Some additional funding towards pay parity for teachers in early childhood centres to get closer to what kindergarten associations receive to pay their teachers is also welcomed. It is good news that the Government is planning to fund Kōhanga Reo better to lift kaimahi wages to pay parity level.

Beyond that, Dr Sarah Alexander, Chief Advisor of the OECE, says the Government has failed to deliver for a sector which is already not just standing still but rapidly falling backwards.

“The Government seems more focused on what they see as the bigger issues such as climate change and housing”, she says. “And, in the education sector, the Government is focused on funding more early intervention for school-age children, including mental health, challenging behaviour, and staying engaged in learning programmes - intervention which might not be so needed if better attention was paid to the earliest formative years of children's development.”

“It is hard on children in many centres when they do not know who their teacher will be from one day to the next. The government could fix this by providing pay parity for all ECE teachers in all services. It currently just makes excuses for delaying doing so when this was an election promise. It is not even requiring services to pay all their qualified teaching staff at least on the bottom 5 steps of the base salary scale, so many eligible teachers are missing out.”

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Key issues that need to be addressed to strengthen parent confidence in using ECE and to attract well-qualified ECE trained and experienced teachers back to the sector weren't even addressed.

These issues include:

  1. Extending pay parity from the bottom of the salary scale to include experienced teachers and head teachers and managers.
  2. Providing help to small services and community-based services as these are struggling most in the current policy and funding climate.
  3. Improving adult-child ratios, especially for infants and toddlers
  4. Addressing group/class size and large numbers of children in centres
  5. Tightening the rules around 20-Hours ECE funding so all families can access 20 Hours ECE for free and without enrolling and paying for additional hours.
  6. Providing the Ministry of Education with the resources to monitor ECE service compliance with regulations, e.g., bi-annual licensing inspections and unannounced spot checks.

Dr Alexander says that while it is possible that these issues may be addressed by the current Government before the next election, based on the lack of attention given to the ECE sector in this year’s Budget, it does not seem likely that ECE will be a priority, leaving those in the ECE sector with little to look forward too.

The results of the pre-Budget ECE Sector Confidence survey can be viewed here:

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