INDEPENDENT NEWS

Early childhood education shocked but not surprised

Published: Thu 25 May 2017 04:46 PM
Early childhood education shocked but not surprised – Budget 2017
25 May 2017
For immediate release.
Today’s budget is extremely disappointing to an already embattled early childhood education (ECE) sector. The sector has learnt to expect little support for high quality ECE from the current government, nevertheless it has left early childhood teachers shocked but not surprised.
Kathy Wolfe, Chief Executive of Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand (ECNZ), said that the Budget merely met the cost of increases to the numbers of children enrolled in early childhood services.
‘The ECE sector stands together gutted that nothing extra has been provided to ECE to support the current 4,500 services caring for and educating over 200,000 tamariki. The $350.5m announced over four years sounds like a lot, but only accounts for the simple fact that there are more children attending ECE as our population grows. It does nothing to address the long term funding freeze per child. This is creating further stress for many ECE services passionate about ensuring that they can provide quality early childhood education.
‘It is very disheartening that there has been no injection of funds into ECE. The sector is going backwards.’
‘The ECE sector is just taking hit after hit – we’re suffering following years of under investment. ’
‘The failure of the government to invest appropriately in ECE has been its modus operandi since the infamous budget of May 2010 when funding for 100% qualified teachers was pulled - and it has just carried on.’
‘Would you put your child in the care of a health professional who wasn’t qualified? Why should whānau expect anything less for their tamariki in early learning’ said Ms Wolfe.
Research released earlier this year by Infometrics painted a picture of the impacts of funding slashes to ECE in recent years. Commissioned by NZEI Te Riu Roa, the research found that the ECE sector is $260m worse off in 2017 due to funding cuts for qualified staff in 2010, and the failure to keep up with inflation. According to NZEI, ECE services are each around $58,000 worse off per year, than if funding hadn’t been removed for qualified staff and had kept up with inflation. All feedback from our members supports this research.
The end result of under investment is a stretched workforce, struggling to provide the high quality ECE that each and every one of our tamariki deserves. This plays out where vital budgets like professional development become either very small, or are removed entirely. This must change for the good of the children themselves, and ultimately for the nation. There is a real risk that quality will be eroded in ECE provision or parents will have to fork out more.
On a more positive note, we commend the government on increasing funding to provide support for at risk or under achieving children with an extra $35.5m over four years of targeted funding.
Ms Wolfe added, ‘It’s encouraging to see increases in funding provided to those who need it most, however we firmly believe that all children in New Zealand deserve a better deal when it comes to early childhood education – an opportunity to provide them with this was missed today.’
Key party policies ECNZ we would like to see pledged in election year.
· The restoration of early childhood funding to account for inflation since 2010.
· That our youngest children are worthy of specialised, qualified teachers - funding reinstated for 100% qualified staff.
· The under-2 teacher-child ratio reduced to 1:4 (on the way to 1:3). Babies need highly responsive caregiving; this requires better ratios, along with small group sizes.
· A commitment to investing in funding for professional development for ECE leaders and teachers.
· ECE teachers are recognised and respected as equals alongside primary and secondary teachers.
· ECE services should be seen as an equitable, valued and integral Communities of Learning (CoL) partner and treated as such.
ENDS

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