Quality ECE services in jeopardy
“The announcement that four kindergartens in the South Island may close is a direct result of years of under-funding and inadequate policy settings” said NZ Kindergartens chief executive Clare Wells. “Although early childhood education (ECE) services received 1.6% funding increase in the government’s budget this year, the funding rate is lower than it was in 2008 and remains woefully inadequate.”
This week Kidsfirst Kindergartens – a community-based, not-for profit organisation – announced the proposed closure of four kindergartens. This includes two kindergartens in Christchurch, one in north Kaiapoi and another in Franz Josef – the only early childhood centre in South Westland. It is also looking to disestablish a number of support staff jobs in kindergartens and to charge parent’s fees.
“In 2011 kindergarten funding was cut by 14% when the previous government dropped funding for 100% qualified teachers in ECE services including in kindergartens, only to fund 80%” Clare Wells said. Kidsfirst like other kindergarten associations, continued to employ all qualified and registered teachers being fundamental to our philosophy and knowing from the research, the integral role that qualified and well-supported teachers play in the provision of high quality teaching and learning of young children. “We were optimistic when the government came into office last year committed to reinstating the funding. That hasn’t happened, and now for Kidsfirst Kindergartens it means the possibility of closing services.”
Kindergarten isn’t the only service feeling the pressure. Other ECE services have been forced to make extensive cuts, increase fees and have struggled to preserve 100% qualified teachers. “We do not want closures to become a trend in ECE or the quality of services undermined through a lack of funding or poor policy” said Clare Wells.
“We expect to see funding and support for 100% qualified teaching workforce included in the ECE 10 year strategic plan which is currently in development and the government must deliver on its promise and address under funding as an immediate priority.”
Kindergarten is iconic in New Zealand and has provided an essential service to children and families over 125 years now. “Every child and their family has the right to high quality, accessible and affordable ECE and we need to ensure that is realised in every community” Clare Wells said.