NZEI Te Riu Roa is calling for urgency in implementing the Government’s 10-year early learning action plan, He taonga te temaiti.
The institute welcomed the announcement of a return to incentivising services that have 100% qualified teachers. However, it said the timetable for fixing the pay gap for teachers and providing support for struggling centres must be accelerated, given the crisis the sector currently faces.
Sandie Burn, the convenor of NZEI’s Early Childhood National Caucus, said the return of funding for 100% qualified teachers would be a relief to centres that had struggled to pay their fully qualified teams since the previous Government cut the incentive 2009. However, she urged the Government to move quickly.
“A number of quality centres have had to close down because of under-funding in recent years and we’re aware of more that are on the brink. The Minister has signalled that funding for 100% qualified teachers will return in 2020, but we still don’t know when. For some struggling centres it may be too late.
“We’ve already written to the Minister stressing the need for emergency funding for non-profit centres on the brink of closing, and that need remains,” she said.
NZEI Te Riu Roa has been campaigning for years against the cuts to funding for qualified teachers and the per-child freeze on funding that has closed centres or forced them to compromise on quality or increase costs to parents.
“The average pay gap of 23% between kindergarten teachers and other equally qualified early childhood teachers is another major issue that can not be put off any longer. The problem is flagged in the action plan, but we need urgent action on a solution now,” Burn said.
NZEI Te Riu Roa has ramped up its campaign for fair pay in early childhood education with the launch of a public video campaign starring TV star and ECE teacher Karen O’Leary.
“The crisis in recruiting and retaining ECE teachers is growing, and the goal of 100% qualified staff can’t be achieved without making ECE teaching a viable career choice,” Burn said.
“If we want to increase quality for all children then the first and best thing we can do is have qualified teachers in front of them – no amount of policy changes or regulations will count for anything without qualified teachers building strong effective relationships with children in small groups in quality learning environments.”
Burn said there was also disappointment in the sector that the strategy showed no ambition for turning the tide of privatisation in the sector.
“The Government has expressed a desire to increase public provision of ECE, but the sector is increasingly being dominated by large-scale for-profit providers to the detriment of smaller community services.”