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New Zealand must do more to ensure children’s rights

New Zealand must do more to ensure children’s rights to quality early childhood education

Public Health Association media release

Embargoed until 1.45pm Wednesday 5 September 2012

New Zealand is failing to provide an equitable and rich start for children with quality early childhood education by whittling away necessary funding, the Public Health Association conference was told at Pipitea Campus, Victoria University, Wellington today.

Anne Smith, Professor Emeritus at the University of Otago, said funding for trained staff, professional development, innovation and parent support has been cut, which meant the quality and affordability of early childhood education is declining.

“Participation in high quality early childhood education has a lifelong impact on a child’s capacity for learning, forming relationships and contributing to society. It's also essential to achieving equity among children from different social and economic circumstances. It is, therefore, the government’s obligation to support the continuous improvement of quality in early childhood education.”

Dr Smith said New Zealand’s high poverty rates and disturbing child abuse figures make it even more vital that the government prioritises spending on early childhood education.

“Failure to do so will mean we are not meeting our obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), and our whole society, will suffer along with its children.”

The UNCRC is the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights, including for children, and was adopted by New Zealand in 1989.

The UNCRC emphasises the right of every child to protection, care and development, as well as the opportunity to reach their full potential. Access to good quality early childhood education is a crucial part of implementing those rights, Dr Smith said.

”It’s not enough to just ensure children have access early childhood education, because low or mediocre quality care can be harmful and expose children to other risks.

“Instead we need to ensure children, regardless of their circumstances, get the high quality early childhood education they have a right to.”

-Ends-

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