The incoming government has an urgent job to do fixing early childhood education funding, education union NZEI Te Riu Roa says.
A recently released Cabinet paper from September shows the previous Labour Government walked back from their commitment to fund full pay parity for ECE teachers in line with their colleagues in kindergarten and schools.
The Government blamed the complexity of the funding system for contributing to a $252.7 million gap in Ministry of Education forecasts of the cost.
Because of the inadequate forecasting, Cabinet decided to rescind an earlier decision to pass on the full increases to the base teacher scale won by kindergarten and school teachers to their peer teachers in early childhood centres.
“Instead of fixing this issue with additional funding, the previous government decided to let ECE teachers, the lowest-paid teacher workforce in education, shoulder the cost themselves,” says NZEI Te Riu Roa National Secretary Stephanie Mills.
"The Government says it's not affordable, but teachers can't afford it either. To refuse to fairly pay these teachers, 98% of them women, is unfair and deeply frustrating. ECE teachers have fought for decades on low pay to win parity, and now, while facing the steepest cost of living rises in recent times and with full parity just in sight, the previous government has reneged on their promise.
“The first 1000 days are the most important in a child’s life, and unfortunately it is ultimately tamariki who will miss out because of this failure to invest in teachers.
"There's a chronic shortage of teachers in the sector: failing to pay full parity will just make it harder to recruit and retain teachers, particularly experienced and expert teachers in community-based and private centres. We know a stable and well-supported workforce is essential to good learning outcomes for tamariki; now both the quality and cost of ECE for parents may be impacted.
“Quality outcomes for tamariki means improving ratios and making teaching attractive and sustainable as a profession. However, this will only happen when early childhood teachers are recognised for their worth and paid the same as their counterparts in kindergartens and schools, and we see real movement on ratios.
“We look forward to progressing this as a priority with the incoming government,” says Stephanie Mills.
Note to editors
The ECE parity scheme was campaigned for over decades and won finally only this year by early childhood teachers to bring their rates of pay in line with their colleagues working in kindergartens.
Pay parity recognises that early childhood teachers working in community-based non-profits or private centres have the same training, expertise and certification requirements, teaching to the same curriculum as those in kindergartens.
They should not be penalised based on the type of early learning centre they work in.
Steps toward full pay parity were funded in Budgets from 2020-2023. However, the Cabinet paper shows the Government walked back from the full parity pledged earlier in 2023 and have now only committed to the 2023 kindergarten teacher rates this year, not as a permanent fix.
This year, an ECE-wide survey was published by NZEI Te Riu Roa, endorsing five key fixes for ECE to nsure we can provide the highest quality care and education for tamariki in Aotearoa. Read Kōriporipo here.
They are calling for action to:
- prioritise Māori language providers,
- implement improved teacher to child ratios across ECE,
- invest in kaiako and kaimahi to make the early childhood education sector attractive,
- provide learning support to all who need it, and
- fix funding to ensure that ECE thrives, in particular, Pasifika language and community-based providers.