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Prioritise investing in high quality ECCE for all children

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) calls on Government to demonstrate a commitment to providing high quality early childhood care and education (ECCE) to our nation’s children, including reinstating a policy of 100% qualified staff.

A new report from Infometrics, commissioned by NZEI Te Riu Roa, has shown that by shaving money off the per-child funding since freezes that came into force in 2010, Government has saved $260 million from ECCE this year alone - the equivalent of $58,000 a year in funding from every ECCE centre in the country.

The report shows that more children are accessing ECCE services and for longer hours. But the devastating effects of political cost-cutting include the undermining of the quality of these services through deteriorating child to teacher ratios, and increased reliance on unqualified staff. A shortage in funding leads inevitably to increases in fees that add financial pressure to parents who are already on a tight budget.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said that the increase in participation was “pleasing” as “one of the best ways for a child to have a great start in education is for them to be in quality early childhood education.”

But the blunt instrument of ‘Better Public Services Targets’ has prioritised participation numbers over quality. Additional funding directed to ECCE services with Budget 2016 has done little but contribute toward the expected increase in the number of children enrolled.

Associate Professor Jenny Ritchie, ECCE spokesperson for CPAG, says that the potential value of these hours is undermined if the quality of these services is poor.

“We know that all children are vulnerable, not just some. And we know that the first thousand days of a child’s life are critical in determining whether or not that child will have the opportunity for good outcomes in later life,” says Ritchie.

“The overall impact of the funding cuts are that they are endangering the wellbeing and limiting the potential of our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.

“Children’s wellbeing and learning is enhanced by having well-qualified teachers, and retention of staff requires good working conditions, including salaries that recognise these qualifications.”

“Instead of redirecting these savings elsewhere, this money should support teachers' salaries.”

CPAG says it is critical that the Government restores ECCE funding to the levels before the cuts in 2010 and prioritises significant new spending in order to reinstate a policy of 100% qualified staff in Budget 2017.