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The Elephant In The Room Is The Lack Of Planning

With Australia launching a campaign to poach even more Early Childhood Education (ECE) teachers from New Zealand, ECE sector leaders representing 85% of the sector are urging the government to put in place a comprehensive plan to ensure children have access to quality ECE.

“We know that what happens in the first 1,000 days is vital,” says Jill Bond CE NZ Kindergartens. “Affordable and accessible education is a right for our infants, toddlers and young children and investment in ECE not only enables parents to participate in the workforce, but ECE delivers significant economic and social benefits.”

Te Rito Maioha CE Kathy Wolfe agrees. “The benefits of a well-functioning ECE sector are enormous and conversely, when the system fails, the repercussions for the development of our tamariki and the additional pressures placed on parents should be of real concern to the new government.”

“We have been advocating and requesting for the responsible Ministers to sit down with us and discuss a comprehensive plan to ensure every child is able to thrive in quality ECE. That means we need to address the elephants in the room that include; the investment system, the excessive regulation, network management, workforce sustainability and social service support. Simply reacting to Australia’s latest effort to poach teachers is not the solution,” says Mrs Wolfe.

“ECE comprises of Kindergartens, Home Based and Education and Care providers,” says Raewyn Overton-Stuart, NZ Home Based Association. “Three very different provisions in the same sector that are funded and regulated somewhat differently. Without a comprehensive plan, parents will continue to see a reduction in choice which we believe is detrimental to the development of our tamariki.”

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“Supporting our teachers by ensuring regulations are not over the top is vital,” says Kelly Seaburg, Director of New Shoots. “The safety and wellbeing of our tamariki must be paramount, but taking teachers away from face-to-face contact time with tamariki must be carefully thought through and discussed with the sector. Having decisions that significantly increase the stress of our workforce when we have a retention issue doesn’t make sense.”

“We would like to meet with the Minister and MoE to design a sustainable funding system that works says Heather Taylor, GM of Barnardos Early Learning. “The current system is overly complicated and does not reflect the true cost of providing quality ECE and it certainly does not support the retention of qualified teachers, which is critical to evidence qualitative and social competence outcomes. With the number of providers exiting ECE, the responsible Ministers need to acknowledge and rectify these challenges.”

“The government needs to put together a consistent plan,” says Cathy Wilson, CE Montessori Aotearoa NZ. “We can’t go on lurching from one imposed change to another without consultation. Last year, providers and teachers felt like they were locked inside a ‘roller coaster of changes’ that were often well meaning but very poorly thought out and implemented. Teachers plan each day when they are teaching children, it shouldn’t be too much to ask for officials to sit down with the sector and create a plan that addresses the major issues.”

Christine Hall, CEO Central Kids Kindergarten Association agrees, “successful planning can only take place if we’re all on the same page. As sector leaders we represent both teachers and providers, so we’re able to offer advice that is child focused, but also grounded in reality. We’ve written to the Ministers and our phones are on. We’re ready and willing to meet with the appropriate officials now to discuss a case for meaningful change, we have done the mahi, we now just need them to give us some of their time.”

“The critical issues affecting ECE should not have to prevent even more tamariki from accessing an education that is critical to their lifelong learning and or parents from being able to re-enter the workforce as long as we plan together, and plan now! says Christine Hall.”

“Collectively we have been working up a strategy aligned to what the government priorities are and the aspirations of the sector,” says Jill Bond. “We are ready, willing, and able to engage with Minister Stanford and Minister Seymour and about this work, and to work in partnership to design a sustainable investment system that works in the best interests of tamariki, their whānau, ECE providers and teachers.”

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