17 May 2011

Mobile kindergarten fears for survival

2:17 pm on 17 May 2011

One of the country's last remaining rural mobile kindergartens fears a proposed change in the way it's funded could force it to close.

The Waimate mobile kindergarten in South Canterbury is one of two still operating in New Zealand.

It has 112 children enrolled, and uses seven different unlicensed venues from Waihoa Downs to Hakataramea and Morven.

The Ministry of Education is considering funding it as playgroup from 2014 rather than as a sessional kindergarten.

Its manager, Terina Moodie, says the change would mean a significant cut in funding - about $4 to $5 an hour per child.

She says the rural service would like to see the sessional funding remain, or it could be forced to close.

Ms Moodie says that, even now, the funding pays only for salaries and the kindergarten does its own fundraising for other needs.

However, Education Minister Anne Tolley says she is aware of the situation and won't let the two remaining mobile kindergartens in New Zealand close due to a lack of money.

Mrs Tolley says they provide a very valuable service for pre-school children in rural areas and she doesn't want their future jeopardised.

She says she has instructed the ministry to change the regulations relating to early childhood education so mobile kindergartens can continue and expand where they are an appropriate.

Kindergartens New Zealand chief executive Clare Wells says the number of rural mobile kindergartens has reduced from eight to two over the past decade.

She says it was difficult for them to meet the early childhood education regulations, so they were going to be phased out by 2014.

Ms Wells says they are an expensive option but mak a difference to rural communities and more support and funding is needed from the Government to develop these services.