Since 2010, core Government funding for Early Childhood Education has been frozen, with any extra money each year provided solely to cover the increased costs of increased enrolments.

This has caused a severe funding squeeze that’s led to sharp increases to parent fees in some places, a deterioration of child to teacher ratios, and increasing reliance on unqualified staff.

While many children are getting a fantastic early childhood education from 100 percent qualified, dedicated professional teachers, others aren’t. That’s got to change.

Every child, regardless of the service they’re enrolled in, or the ability of their parents to pay, deserves a great early childhood education.

New Zealand can afford to provide quality ECE. We say every child is worth it.

Six facts about early childhood education

Quality ECE is the foundation of a lifetime of learning for our children, but it’s under threat. Here are six facts about why ECE needs some TLC…

1: Quality is everything

The quality of ECE can make or break a child’s educational outcomes later in life. Evidence is clear that a child is ONLY better off in ECE if it’s high quality. ERO, and the Government’s own early childhood advisory groups, have raised serious concerns about the quality of ECE on offer in many services, warning that children could be harmed by poor quality ECE.

2: The Government’s focus is on quantity, at the expense of quality

The Education Minister has made clear that her priority is having 98 percent of children attending ECE, not on raising quality.

As long as a centre has a license, the children enrolled in it count towards the Minister’s attendance target, even if the centre they’re enrolled in is on ERO’s watchlist.

3: Funding has been cut in real terms

While funding for ECE has increased since 2010, it has only been to cover increases in the number of children enrolled.

Core per-child funding has been frozen. When inflation is taken into account these freezes amount to about a five percent funding reduction since 2010.

4: Funding for qualified teachers has also been cut

In 2010 the Government removed the 100 percent qualified teacher funding component, which means services get funded for a maximum 80 percent of staff being professional qualified teachers.

This leaves services committed to only employing qualified teachers struggling to make up the shortfall. And it creates a perverse incentive to employ unqualified, cheaper staff in other services.

5: The cuts will harm Māori and Pasifika children the most

The Ministry’s Early Childhood Advisory Group for under 2s has warned: “We know that Māori and Pasifika children, and children from low socio-economic status backgrounds are more likely than other children to experience poor-quality ECE. Correspondingly, they are likely to receive the most benefit from increases in the quality of ECE.”

6: Qualified teachers are the key indicators of quality

International research shows that a fully qualified workforce represents quality. Group size and low child-to-teacher ratios also matter.

What we’re asking for

We recommend that the Government:

  1. Restore the 100 percent qualified teacher component to the funding formula, to encourage services to employ qualified staff, and remove a funding stress on those committed to 100 percent qualified now.
  2. Restore per-child funding to the inflation-adjusted levels it was set at prior to the 2010 funding freeze, and commit to increasing the level of funding every year in line with real cost increases.
  3. Commit to employing 100 percent qualified teaching staff in every ECE service in line with evidence that qualified professional teachers are crucial to providing the best quality ECE.
  4. Immediately reduce teacher to child ratios for 0 to 2 year olds to 1:3 and reduce the ratio for 2 to 5 year olds to 1:8.
  5. Reduce group sizes – setting a maximum of 15 under 2s and 40 over 2s. In 2011 the government increased the licensed maximum size of ECE centres from 50 to 150 children over two, and up to 25 children under 2.