Kindergarten still in demand
“Changing the way kindergartens operate and the introduction of more affordable early childhood education through the ‘20 hours free’ policy has caused a dip in kindergarten enrolments” said New Zealand Kindergartens chief executive Clare Wells.
The latest figures from the Ministry of Education show enrolments in kindergartens have dropped to slightly below 40,000 children nationwide. “Enrolments have hovered around the 45,000 mark for several years” said Clare Wells. “The shift in numbers reflects a period of significant change in kindergarten.”
There are now over 30 different models of kindergarten including the traditional three afternoon and five morning sessions a week.
“Kindergarten offers flexibility without compromising on quality” said Clare Wells. “We are adapting our service to suit a wider range of needs for instance offering six hour school day sessions five days a week, and some all day services.”
“Obviously if you move away from the traditional model and reduce the number of sessions a week, there will be a drop in the number of places available” said Clare Wells.
Changing hours of operation has brought many benefits for children and their families, including improved child:teacher ratios. “For every 10 children in a session, there is a qualified teacher and in some kindergartens, group sizes have also been reduced” Clare Wells said.
“While there may not be as many children enrolled in kindergarten as have been in previous years, the number of kindergartens continues to grow and the 16,000 plus children on waiting lists suggests the demand for kindergarten remains high” said Clare Wells. As a community-based, not-for profit service, kindergarten relies on government and community funding. “We have not got the same ability as the private sector to set up new services quickly. Building new kindergartens to meet that demand takes time” said Clare Wells.
Forty percent of four year olds attend kindergarten. “We are 15 percent of early childhood education services catering for around 22 percent of children enrolled in a service” Clare Wells said.
“Kindergarten is about children, it is iconic in New Zealand and it remains the first choice of early childhood education for thousands of families” Clare Wells said. “Parents and caregivers want their children to transition to school having experienced quality early childhood education provided by 100% qualified and registered teachers. I can’t imagine that changing” said Clare Wells.
For further information contact Clare Wells on 0272 955 044 or 04 4953744
New Zealand Kindergartens represents 29 kindergarten associations around the country, responsible for 420 kindergartens.