Investing in a vision for early learning

Issue: Volume 99, Number 9

Posted: 11 June 2020
Reference #: 1HA8DW

Budget 2020 included investment into the early learning sector, taking a significant step towards a more equitable and higher quality system.

Budget 2020 will see the restoration of a higher funding rate for early learning services that employ fully qualified and registered teachers.

Amanda Coulston, Chief Executive of Whānau Manaaki Kindergartens, which operates kindergarten and home-based education and care services in the lower North Island, says the Government’s investment into New Zealand’s early learning sector is a step towards a more equitable system. 

Budget 2020 included a funding boost over four years to improve the pay of many qualified teachers working in education and care services. It is expected to help bridge the pay gap between kindergarten teachers and teachers in education and care services. 

“It’s as much about fairness and investing in a vision for a professionalised early childhood sector, as it is about the pragmatic aspects of injecting money during these challenging economic times,” says Amanda.

“It’s not just madly throwing money. What they’re doing is they have a plan and they are investing the money to cement that plan. So the announcement around pay parity and funding the people on the lowest rung of the salary scale needs to be applauded. It’s something that the sector really needs.”

Early learning equity important

Why is equity so important in early learning? 

Amanda is unequivocal in her response. “Because every child deserves the best. It might sound a bit like a slogan, but it’s true.”

For this reason, the former primary school principal supports a move towards centres employing only qualified teachers, like in our school system. 

“Parents know that no matter where they are in the country, if they send their child to a school, that state school will have qualified registered teachers in every classroom.” 

Now steps are being taken towards a fully qualified early learning workforce too. As part of Budget 2020, Minister of Education,
Chris Hipkins has announced the restoration of a higher funding rate for services that employ fully qualified and registered teachers.

The current requirement is that at least 50 per cent of the staff required to meet adult-to-child ratios in early childhood teacher-led centres must have recognised early childhood education teaching qualifications. However, almost all (96 per cent) of teacher-led centres employ 80 per cent or more qualified and certificated teachers. The new 100 per cent funding rates will apply from 1 January 2021.

“Research shows that high-quality ECE can improve children’s learning and developmental outcomes, particularly for children in low socio-economic groups,” says Chris Hipkins.

Amanda agrees. “When you think about the fact that 90 per cent of a child’s brain is formed by the time they’re five, if anything, the staff in early childhood should be more qualified because the subtleties and complexities of nurturing very young children is very complex and it’s so important we do it well.”

Powerful message

Amanda says that while a mandate for 100 per cent of a centre’s staff to be qualified would be a great mechanism and incentive for centres, it would also help articulate the value placed on early learning in New Zealand.

“It’s also a really powerful message to the whole country of the importance of those early years in children’s learning. We just take it for granted because our school system is of such a high standard.” 

Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand Chief Executive Kathy Wolfe says the reintroduction of the funding band will encourage more people to train as early childhood teachers, which is much needed given the current shortage of qualified teachers.

The early learning Budget 2020 announcements also included a cost adjustment to subsidy rates and additional funding for home-based early learning services, kōhanga reo and playcentres.

Overall, the investment in the early learning sector is intended to support the move to higher quality early learning that prioritises the learning, wellbeing and identity of every child as set out in the Early Learning Action Plan.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 1:30 pm, 11 June 2020

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