Friday September 2nd 2011
Government has a responsibility to protect children's education in Christchurch
Early childhood centres and primary schools in Christchurch will be seeking answers from the Government about continued funding for early childhood services and the staffing of primary schools after next Monday’s Cabinet meeting in the city.
The education union, NZEI, today sent an open letter to the Prime Minister, urging his government to maintain funding levels for early childhood centres and schools until the end of 2012. Cabinet is holding a special meeting in Christchurch on Monday (September 5) to discuss the city’s earthquake recovery.
The government is refusing to give any guarantees to early childhood centres over their current or future funding, and many are struggling to stay open. Some have already faced substantial cuts because of falling rolls since the earthquake and because of the Government’s Budget cuts to ECE which took effect this year. Schools have only been guaranteed current teacher staffing levels until the end of this year, and the jobs of teacher aides and other school support staff is vulnerable because schools' operations funding is stretched.
NZEI has called on the government to act immediately because it believes maintaining a stable educational environment is critical for children and a strong education workforce is essential to the city’s recovery.
NZEI President Ian Leckie says: “Access to early childhood education is essential for all children and it is even more important when children and families are dealing with extraordinary challenges and stresses. They need stability and support and the valuable community ties which early childhood services provide.”
“The government has a responsibility to the children and families of Christchurch to make sure there is an effective network of services. If centres are forced to close thousands of children will be denied the opportunity to participate or access vital early childhood education. The Earthquake Recovery Minister himself is saying that Christchurch’s population will continue to grow so the government must keep services going now and into the future”.
There are a variety of options the government could look at such as a special fund for services to remain viable, discretionary grant arrangements, as well as continued roll related funding at pre-quake levels.
“Rebuilding the city’s social infrastructure is just as important as the efforts which are underway to restore its economic infrastructure – schools and early childhood centres are central to that. Hopefully Cabinet will consider that and come up with an appropriate response,” says Mr Leckie.