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Investment in Early Childhood Education Critical

Investment in Early Childhood Education Critical

An increase of $550 million for early childhood education receives a cautious welcome from New Zealand Kindergartens.

“While we support an increase to the overall spend to meet the cost of increased participation, it will provide limited relief to individual services still feeling the effects of the cuts announced in the 2010 budget.” said Clare Wells, Chief Executive.

“Over $15 million was stripped from kindergarten budgets last year” said Clare Wells. “Kindergarten associations have shelved building and playground projects, pulled back on professional development support or in some cases, cut back hours or made staff in non-teaching positions redundant to meet that shortfall.”

There are more cuts in line for ECE when associations employing more than 80% qualified teachers can no longer access funding to support newly qualified teachers reach full registration. “Those cuts come into effect on 1 July and for our network represent a further loss of $1 million. Funding to support those teachers will have to come from somewhere else.”

The increased funding announced today does however cover the cost of the kindergarten teacher’s salary increase which maintains pay parity with primary and secondary teachers. “Kindergarten teachers are covered by the State Sector Act and the government negotiates their pay with NZEI Te Riu Roa, the teacher’s union” said Clare Wells.

The salary funding has been made available through a separate system for kindergarten. Previously, when kindergarten teachers salaries were increased the rates for all ECE teacher -led services went up to cover that cost. “The intention was that pay parity could be passed on to qualified and registered teachers in other ECE services if employers of those services offered it – and in many cases they did.” said Clare Wells. “It is disappointing that funding has not being made available to those services in this budget.”

As community-based, not-for-profit organisations, kindergartens rely on the funding from government to meet most of our costs. “We are pleased to see increased funding tagged to meet the cost of the recent salary increase. However we remain concerned as individual services struggle with increased operational costs” said Clare Wells.

“We do not want to see any ECE service reducing the quality of services or costs passed on to parents. Both would undermine the Government’s own objectives to see more children and families participating in high quality ECE.”

“The benefits of quality early childhood education are proven. Limiting funding support to individual services could actually end up costing the Government more in the long run” said Clare Wells.

ENDS

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