Early Childhood Centres are closing at an alarming rate of eleven per month. That’s 285 centres closing their doors to parents and tamariki over the last two years making it even harder for parents to earn a living during a cost-of-living crisis, while our children are missing out on an early childhood education.
“We thank the Minister for ensuring this wasn’t an Oliver Twist Budget,” says Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand Chief Executive Kathy Wolfe, “and we’re extremely hopeful that this additional funding boost and extending ‘free ECE to two-year olds’ will make a meaningful difference for the thousands of parents that want to ensure their tamariki are being cared for and educated, in an early childhood centre.”
The Early Childhood Education (ECE) sector experienced a multi-year funding freeze prior to 2017 with only small incremental funding injections in the last six years. That places the sector around 11% behind CPI over the last 10 to 15 years. The government has tagged an additional $1.8 billion over five years in funding which is encouraging.
“The budget’s injection of funding to extend 20 hours free ECE to two-year-olds is welcome,” says Mrs Wolfe. “This may help parents and caregivers to return to the workforce. However, the key issue is whether the funding increase will actually ensure the word ‘free’ is accurate and benefit children, whānau and ECE services.”
“The one off ‘cost pressure’ funding for Pacific ECE and Care Services is encouraging as many of those providers are not able to increase service fees to meet the increased costs that the sector has had to endure, while the additional funding for Playcentres, Kōhanga Reo and Home-Based ECE services will be appreciated.”
“While heartening, the additional funding including the increase to the 20 hours ECE subsidy for 3–5-year-olds should be seen as a further step to helping the ECE sector back on its feet. What is still required, is a full funding review and the replacement of the current dysfunctional funding model. This is something the sector needs and has been requesting for years.” The potential issue is that the ‘free fees for two year olds’ maybe swallowed by a Pay Parity proposal based on child/teacher ratios that are outdated and unworkable.”
“One of the key concerns highlighted today, is the issue of Pay Parity. The government’s consultation has had to be extended and it seems doubtful that the additional $322 million is a realistic amount.”
“The announcement of a one-off injection of funding for ‘Teacher Supply’ of $21 million is also welcome. A separate funding boost for the tertiary sector will no doubt have a beneficial outcome for initial teacher education, but we stand by our call that a teacher workforce plan is required to reduce the teacher shortage in the ECE sector.”
“The increases in the budget today are the headlines, and while they look positive and we are certainly grateful, the devil will be in the detail. Until we lift the hood on how the funding actually works for the many different kinds of ECE services, we won’t be certain that children, kaiako and ECE services will have received a decent serving of the budget’s funding.”