Early childhood education key Government priority
There is a great deal of positive momentum and focus on early childhood education in 2013, and it remains a key priority of the government. Reaching 98% participation in early childhood education is one of the Better Public Services goals and access to high quality early childhood education has featured in several high profile reports on children including the White Paper for Vulnerable Children and the Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group report on Solutions to Child Poverty.
New Zealand is a world leader in early childhood education. In order to build on the success of the sector and ensure that all children have access to affordable, inclusive and culturally-relevant early childhood education, we need to focus on enduring, comprehensive solutions:
- A 2013 budget which provides adequate funding to maintain universal access to 20 hours early childhood education plus additional funding to support increased participation in target communities including Maori and Pasifika families and low-income families. This is essential for reaching the target of 98% participation in early childhood education by 2016. Universal access to early childhood education benefits individual families and society. Research shows that “high-performing and equitable school systems are also those with little socio-economic disparity in access to pre-primary education [early childhood education]”.
- Ensuring all families have the resources and capacity to make positive decisions about their children’s education including early childhood education. Compulsion for one small population of families is not an effective or long-term solution to improving access to early childhood education. You can read the New Zealand Kindergartens submission on the Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill here. Ensuring services are accessible, affordable and relevant for all families is a more effective and enduring strategy for increasing participation.
- A focus not just on the quantity of early childhood education services but the quality. The government has made it clear that lifting quality in education is a priority. The ECE Sector Advisory Group Report on Sector Wide Quality recommendations should be adopted and implemented as soon as possible including the recommendation that teacher-led, centre-based services should be required by regulations to have 80% registered teachers from 1 July 2013. While all teachers in kindergarten are fully qualified and registered teachers, we want to see a 100% qualified teaching workforce in all education and care services in the future as well.
- A planned approach to the provision of early childhood education. There are several opportunities in 2013 for the government to make informed decisions, in partnership with local communities, about the provision of early childhood education. The Christchurch Education Renewal Plan and the government’s participation initiatives represent two opportunities for the government to engage in meaningful consultation with parents and families, the ECE sector and schools, to establish comprehensive plans for the provision of ECE which support improved access and sustainable services.