High quality ECE – a right for every child
“This is our moment to get it right for young children and reset government policy in the interests of high quality teaching and learning” said Clare Wells, Chief Executive NZ Kindergartens. “The government’s determination to ensure the provision of high quality early childhood education (ECE) unique to Aotearoa, is to be applauded.”
The Minister of Education released the draft ECE strategic plan today which sets out a series of recommendations to lift the quality of ECE services through improved adult:child ratios and a requirement for 100% qualified and well-supported teaching workforce, to improve the planning of new services and strengthen monitoring of all services, and to increase investment in community-based, public ECE.
Increasing numbers of children are spending longer periods of time in ECE services independent of their parents and caregivers. “Improving ratios for our very youngest children in ECE settings is long overdue” said Clare Wells. “We welcome the goal to improve not only the numbers of adults to children in a centre but also the qualifications of those adults.”
Central to the plan is lifting the bar on the numbers of qualified teachers in ECE services over time. “The kindergarten service is committed to 100% qualified teaching workforce and we welcome government policy supporting teacher-led education and care services to reach that same goal” Clare Wells said. “However, funding to services already employing 100% qualified teachers must be increased if we are to retain and grow a qualified teaching workforce.” The hourly funding rate to kindergartens employing all qualified teachers is less than it was 10 years ago. “We expect increased funding in the 2019 budget will be one of the first steps towards realising government’s quality goals for the sector”.
The government invests around $1.8 billion in ECE alongside a significant investment from whānau, families and communities contributing fees and donations. “We welcome greater accountability for the receipt and use of public funding” Clare Wells said.
“It’s absolutely right that the government should set conditions for the receipt of funding and lift expectations of ECE providers” Clare Wells said. “We agree every ECE service should ensure an optimum learning environment for children, focus on high quality teaching, and provide greater support to teachers and kaiako through better pay and employment conditions and professional learning and development (PLD) opportunities.”
“The success of the plan will rely on the timely implementation of policies and while some may take some years to achieve, others such as improving ratios, regulating qualifications, improving employment conditions, and planning service provision cannot wait” said Clare Wells. “It is untenable to think we would create the same situation as was the case for the 10 year plan developed in 2002, which was never fully implemented because a change of government in 2008 resulted in funding and the policy targets being cut.”
The development of this strategic plan is one of a number of pieces of work being undertaken by the Ministry of Education to ensure a strong future for education. “One in five children in the education system today, attends an ECE service” said Clare Wells. “We expect the Ministry’s work streams will inform and be informed by each other and ECE policy will be central to the thinking rather than simply aligned to it, to ensure a coherent approach across the system.”
We will take the time we need to examine each of the recommendations and engage with our members, teachers and communities to develop a response to the draft plan in March 2019.