Where is the child at the heart of early childhood education in New Zealand?
Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand is extremely disappointed that the government has once again been tokenistic towards early childhood education in its Wellbeing Budget.
‘While we thank the Minister of Education for a 1.8% increase in per child subsidy rates, the early childhood sector is over the government and government agencies’ disregard for early childhood education in New Zealand,’ says Te Rito Maioha Chief Executive, Kathy Wolfe.
‘About 97% of children are in some form of early childhood education in this country. What’s more, it is clear from research that a child’s first 1000 days of life are of paramount importance to that child’s development, wellbeing and lifelong learning. Where are these children in this budget?
‘For the past decade, early childhood education has been ignored because for some reason, Education Ministers and the Ministry of Education cannot get their head around the significance of early childhood education.
‘They hide behind rhetoric that they do not have the data or because early childhood is not compulsory. Indeed, the Minister of Education has said that “early learning providers are autonomous and make operational decisions with funding”.
‘However, the Ministry of Education holds all the levers. Early childhood services can only address underfunding and falling quality by increasing their fees! What does this do for families and whānua wellbeing?’
Ms Wolfe says CPI-related funding increases are only about supporting greater demand for places in early childhood services.
‘They are not about enabling early childhood education employers, in teacher-led services, to employ more qualified teachers, pay them their worth, improve working conditions and invest in resources, all of which have a positive impact on children in early learning.
‘This situation has to stop for the sake of New Zealand’s youngest citizens. As a member of the OECD, we can no longer say hand on heart that we have a great early childhood system.
‘Increasingly, early childhood services cannot source enough qualified early childhood teachers to teach the early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki, due to significant shortages.
‘There are not enough new graduates to replace the teachers leaving the profession, let alone close the gap on the shortage.’
Ms Wolfe says the shortage of early childhood teachers is the same as the shortage of primary and secondary school teachers.
‘There are just not enough qualified early childhood teachers to meet demand.
‘We estimate – using Ministry of Education data – that about 2100 qualified early childhood teachers are needed each year thanks to attrition and increased demand for places in early childhood services.
‘What is the point of having an internationally recognised curriculum if we do not have the qualified teachers in teacher-led services to teach it? Also, what happened to Labour’s election manifesto promise to support services so they could have 100% qualified teachers on staff?’