Funding increase for young children’s learning support long overdue
New Zealand Kindergartens Te Pūtahi Kura Puhou o Aotearoa (NZK) is encouraged to see the government will be spending an extra $35 million to support young children get the most out of their early childhood education (ECE).
“There has been a critical shortfall in learning support funding in ECE for many years,” said Clare Wells, NZK chief executive. “Children and their whānau are waiting an unacceptable amount of time to access specialist help like speech and language therapy and for support with behavioural issues.”
“Our survey of kindergarten teachers showed the most common reasons for referral to the Ministry of Education and early intervention services were for speech and language and behavioural difficulties,” Clare Wells said. “Nearly 70% of teachers reported that referrals for specialist support were not assessed in a timely manner. We hope this new money will mean those children get the support they need when they need it.”
“Targeting funding in these areas will make a difference for some children,” Clare Wells said. “However, the Ministry of Education says around one in ten children receives some form of support for their learning each year which equates to about 20,000 children who need access to learning support in ECE. We need funding increases across learning support services to reach them all,” said Clare Wells.
In a recent consultation about learning support by the Ministry of Education, NZK made it clear that better access to face-to-face support from specialists is what many children with learning and behavioural difficulties need and aren’t getting. “It seems the government has listened to our sector on this,” Clare Wells said. “We hope to see funding increases across the range of learning support services for young children in this year’s Budget.”