Positive growth in the early childhood education sector

Issue: Volume 93, Number 1

Posted: 27 January 2014
Reference #: 1H9cty

More young children are being enrolled in early childhood education (ECE), they are staying for longer each day and there are more qualified professionals to teach them.

These are just some of the latest findings in the 2013 ECE summary report released by the Ministry of Education in December 2013. The report is based on results from the annual ECE survey which, in the most recent round, was completed by 4,221 licensed early childhood education services and 659 playgroups.

Overall the 2013 census shows continuing positive growth in a number of areas within the ECE sector. In particular, enrolment growth has picked up again with average hourly attendance rising. Service growth has remained steady, with lower overall waiting times and the proportion of qualified teachers continues to rise.

The report provides a statistical summary of key aspects of the ECE sector and trends over the past decade. It covers participation of children in ECE, services and teaching staff. To read the full report, visit the Education Counts website(external link).


Regular participation in quality early childhood education significantly increases a child’s chance of future educational success. Communities and ECE services around New Zealand are working together to give as many children as possible that early opportunity to succeed. The Government’s target is that in 2016, 98 per cent of children starting school will have participated in quality ECE. At the heart of this drive are the youngest and sometimes most vulnerable members of our communities.

Important participation findings:

  • Participation in ECE continues to rise despite a decline in the population of around four thousand 0-4 year-olds in 2013. There were 200,922 enrolments in licensed ECE services in June 2013, up nearly 4,400 since June 2012. 
  • Māori and Pasifika contributed nearly two-thirds (63%) of the growth in 2013. Māori enrolments were up by 2,600 (or 6.2%), while Pasifika enrolments were up by 860 (or 6.3%).
  • Growth in Asian enrolments also continues to be high, up by 1,900 (or 12%). Together, Māori, Pasifika and Asian children contributed almost all (98%) of the growth in 2013.
  • Overall, growth in enrolments has picked up again in 2013, after slowing in 2011 and 2012. Enrolments grew by 2.2%, up from 1.3% in 2012. Enrolments have increased by 6.2% since 2010 and 23% over the last decade.
  • Nearly 96% of children had attended ECE in the six months prior to starting school in 2013.
  • Participation of 2 and 3 year-olds has increased more than other ages, and their enrolment rates have also increased (to around 64% and 94% respectively).
  • Of all enrolments, 18% were aged 1 or under, 20% were aged 2, and 62% were 3 years or over.
  • The majority of enrolment growth remains in education and care services, where numbers were up 5.1% since 2012, 13% since 2010 and 53% since 2004. Education and care services now make up 62% of all licensed services.
  • Enrolments in kindergartens and playcentres continued to decline, down 3.3% and 5.1% respectively. In 2013, kōhanga reo enrolments also decreased (by 190 or 2.0%).
  • Children are continuing to be enrolled longer in ECE across all teacher-led service types. Average hours enrolled per week increased to 21.7 hours in 2013, up nearly 40 minutes from 2012.
  • Of all enrolments for children aged 3-5 years, 91% were in the 20 Hours ECE scheme in 2013, up 1.7 per cent from 2012. Take-up of 20 Hours ECE by playcentres increased from 33% to 37%.


ECE Services

If children are to participate in ECE and benefit from all it has to offer, there must be enough services for their families to access. There must be choice for families so they find an option that best meets the needs of them and their child.

Important statistics around ECE services:

  • There were 4,255 licensed services at June 2013. This number (once adjusted for license mergers) was up 2.2% from 2012. 155 new services opened in the year to June 2013 (compared with 152 the year before). Of these 119 were education and care centres and 30 were home-based services.
  • In 2013 most services were able to take on new enrolments with just 32% of ECE services with waiting times of over a month, down from 35% in 2012 and from its peak of 56% in 2008. Waiting times rose between 2004 and 2008, indicating growth of demand for ECE relative to actual service provision. However, waiting times have since fallen below the levels of 10 years ago.
  • Occupancy rates are a measure of how full ECE services are. They measure the extent that children are using all the hours that services would be funded for if their licensed places were full. Occupancy rates have remained steady at 80% in 2013.
  • The number of Māori language immersion services in 2013 (476) remained similar to the number in 2012 (473). The number of services where Māori was used more than 50% of the time (493) was one less than in 2012 (494).
  • The number of services that reported using a Pasifika language for more than 50% of the time was 96 (compared with 93 in 2012). There were 54 services where a Pasifika language was spoken more than 80% of the time (compared with 53 in 2012). Samoan and Tongan were the languages most used in these services.


Teaching staff

Quality ECE is achieved through a number of factors; quality teaching is one of these.

Important findings around ECE teaching staff:

  • Total teaching staff numbers increased to 22,200 in 2013 (up 740 or 3.4% since 2012). Of these 76% were qualified teachers, up from 74% in 2012 and 51% in 2004.
  • Across all centre-based teacher-led services, there was an average of 1 teacher for every 6 children, similar to the level in 2012. This ranged from an average of 1:3 for education and care services catering to under twos only, 1:6 for education and care services catering to over twos only, 1:8 for all-day kindergartens catering to over twos only, to 1:13 for sessionally-run kindergartens catering to over twos only.
  • The number of Māori and Pasifika teaching staff increased by 6.2% and 4.3% respectively from 2012 and the proportions that were ECE-qualified increased to 68% and 71% respectively.
  • Male ECE teaching staff numbers increased 11% in 2013, up by 48, to reach 486. Males made up 2.2% of all teaching staff, up from 2.0% in 2012.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 9:04 pm, 27 January 2014

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