Sign the 1:4-U3! petition to reduce the under three, child to teacher ratio

Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand and Childspace are urging parents to sign a petition calling for one teacher | kaiako to every four children under three years of age in early childhood education (ECE). This would replace last century’s arbitrary ratio of one teacher to five children under two, and two teachers to twenty children ages two and above.

“The current sub-standard ratios have been in place for decades and were created in the 1960s without any evidence or research,” says Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood NZ Chief Executive Kathy Wolfe. “It’s incredible to think that seatbelts in cars had yet to be introduced when this ratio was put in place. That was at a time when smoking in cars and corporal punishment for children were considered normal. We’ve moved on from those outdated ideas, yet with children often in ECE for a whole working day, successive governments have failed to look after the best interests of our children by ensuring a fit for purpose ratio.”

Lower ratios of children to teachers are widely accepted by educators, ECE providers and the Ministry of Education, as being beneficial for children. 

“Lower ratios are required to ensure tamariki receive the appropriate care and education that parents or caregivers expect,” says Toni Christie, the Director of Childspace Early Childhood Institute. “Being solely responsible for five infants is chaotic and ten children between the ages of two and three virtually impossible. A kaiako will struggle to create the one-to-one quality time that is required, because they also have to navigate sleep and mealtimes, change each child’s nappies, support developing self-regulation, and try to ensure they have a loving, nurturing space to learn in. Additionally, kaiako have to ensure the children’s learning is documented, and that regulatory requirements are fulfilled, such as initialling a chart every five-ten minutes when children are asleep.”

“The current ratios are unworkable and harmful for both teachers and children because they are unsafe. The reality is that most providers understand the need to staff above the minimum ratio, because they care deeply about the wellbeing of our tamariki,” says Mrs Christie.

“A human being is an infant until they are three years old.  During this critical and sensitive period of development, infants require attuned adults who will meet their physical and emotional needs in sensitive ways.  This is simply impossible under current minimum ratio requirements.

“You can’t create a bond with a child, unless you have quality one-to-one time and attention,  this is widely recognised in the educational literature. The educationalist Magda Gerber believed, if you pay full attention just part of the time, then children are happy to go and play, but if you are always paying part-attention, then children are always hungry for more” says Mrs Christie. “Part attention is all you could hope to achieve under current ratios, and part-attention is not good enough for our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.”

“There are fundamental issues within the ECE sector that require the government’s attention,” says Mrs Wolfe. “We have a teacher shortage, with burnout and staff retention all major issues. Ratio’s play a big role in determining the level of stress that teachers are under, and ratios are also used to set government policy and funding. Getting the basics wrong for so long is an embarrassment.”

“The government has to do better by prioritising our tamariki with better ratios and ensuring adequate funding,” says Mrs Wolfe. “We need to make sure whoever forms the next government are listening, so please sign the petition to lower the ratio to one to four, for under threes.”

The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable citizens. These little people are our youngest and most vulnerable citizens, and they are the future of Aotearoa. If they could sign this petition, they would.

Sign or download the petition resources here 

Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand is a leader in early childhood and primary education – growing teachers, leaders, knowledge and bicultural practice so every child learns and thrives. As a membership organisation we are a strong voice for young children and quality education, advocating for the ECE sector and connecting our members with the latest sector-related issues, policy and professional development.  As a specialist tertiary provider with 11 centres, we grow valued teachers, educators, leaders and experts with diploma, degree and postgraduate qualifications in early childhood and primary education.


Childspace Early Childhood Institute is an educational organisation committed to improving Early Childhood Education provision and practices. With four early childhood centres in Wellington, an institute providing professional development, research and resources to early childhood teachers locally and internationally, and a workshop specialising in children’s playgrounds, furnishings and equipment, Childspace advocates for young children, their families and their teachers.  Toni Christie is the founder along with her husband Robin and their organisation has been improving ECE provision for more than 30 years.


Media contact:
Rob McCann - Lead Communications Advisor | Kaitohutohu Whakapā Matu  
Mobile 022 411 4560 
[email protected]