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The bulletin: Minister moves to overhaul early childhood education (NZ)

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Braae, Alex
Publication Date: 
20 Nov 2018


A major new plan to overhaul early childhood education has been unveiled by the government. Radio NZ has a rundown of the key details of the plan, but the topline is this: the government is targeting better qualified teachers, and more of them per child. Education minister Chris Hipkins also went on Newstalk ZB yesterday to explain the changes.

Currently, there are ratios of teachers per child that ECE centres are meant to meet as a minimum. Mr Hipkins wants to see that ratio come down, with one teacher for every five kids two years old, and one teacher for every four kids under two. As well as that, the proportion of teachers that need to be fully qualified at each centre will go up. Pay increases are also on the table.

Quality control is also being considered through surprise audits, potential closing of problem centres, and blocking companies with bad records from opening new centres. That’s important because as Radio NZ’s Insight programme reported last year, serious question marks hang over some centres, and it could be putting children at risk.

To make all of this possible, the money’s going to have to be better for teachers, given the current context of industrial action among primary and secondary teachersCurrently ECE teachers make, on average and according to PayScale, about $23 bucks an hour. But that’s on average, which means a lot of teachers are well below that – for example, this Stuff feature earlier in the year outlined how some were basically on the minimum wage. The minimum pay does go up for qualified ECE teachers to $19.74 an hour, but that’s still not a heap of money, and according to that report some qualified teachers don’t even get it. And moreover, there is currently a shortage of qualified teachers, and there are questions around how exactly large numbers of new people will be attracted to the profession.

So while the government is putting in more money, the cost of Early Childhood Care might rise for parents too, reports the NZ Herald. Under certain conditions parents can get up to 20 hours a week of ECE paid for by the government, by Mr Hipkins told Cabinet that there was a good chance some centres would pass cost increases on in the form of fees. And as parents will already know, free doesn’t necessarily mean free when it comes to ECE – here was Jai Breitnauer writing about it on The Spinoff earlier in the year.

Entered Date: 
20 Nov 2018
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