Three organisations representing New Zealand's early childhood education (ECE) sector, have come together today to warn that Government funding decisions are placing high quality early childhood education at risk. Their collaboration comes after last month's Budget failed to increase per-child hourly rates, which have remained roughly the same since 2008.
New Zealand Kindergartens, Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand (ECNZ), and NZEI Te Riu Roa, collectively representing 400 kindergartens, 500 Early Childhood Education services and ECE teachers, also claim funding for qualified teachers has never been restored since it was cut in 2010.
Last week, Government and the NZEI agreed the new terms of the Kindergarten Collective Employment Agreement, which saw a two per cent pay increase for kindergarten teachers and the agreement to pay for their practising certificate costs. However, Kathy Wolfe, Chief Executive of ECNZ said that all early childhood education teachers deserved better funding, not only kindergarten teachers.
"I’m really pleased kindergarten teachers are getting a pay increase from government, and their practising certificate costs covered. Their teachers deserve this and it’s great there has been acknowledgement from the Government. However, we want to see the value of all ECE teachers recognised with adequate funding. A teacher is a teacher is a teacher!" says Wolfe.
Wolfe says that the largest service type within the ECE sector is Education and Care numbering around 2,500 services, which do not receive the same benefits as the 650 kindergartens. The education and care sub-sector is reliant on increases in per child funding at budget time, she says.
“Our organisations are committed to high quality, teacher-led early childhood education, which is crucial to giving children the best start to their life-long learning journey,” said Wolfe. “By keeping the per child funding rate at 2008 levels, the Government is forcing services to cut costs by either employing untrained, lower paid staff, or cutting back on learning and curriculum resources. For those of us who refuse to compromise on quality, it is fast becoming a race for survival.”
The three organisations were today calling for the Government to commit to quality education for every child, by restoring funding to the sector that's been eroded since 2008, and restoring the goal and funding needed for 100 per cent qualified teachers.
“A fifth of all young people in education are in ECE. It makes no sense to deprive some of these children the best education we can possibly give them,” said Lynda Stuart, President of NZEI Te Riu Roa, which represents ECE teachers.
"The tragedy is, the combined pressures of compulsory enrolment , funding restrictions, and disincentives to hire quality teachers mean disadvantaged children are the most likely to miss out on the kind of quality ECE that can transform their lives."