14 Jul 2017

Labour pledges more money for more ECE teachers

6:54 pm on 14 July 2017

The Labour Party has pledged to roll back cuts to early childhood funding made by previous National-led governments and raise minimum requirements for qualified teachers if it is elected to government.

no caption

Photo: 123rf.com

Chris Hipkins, the party's early childhood spokesperson, said a Labour-led government would reinstate a subsidy rate for early childhood services where all teachers are qualified.

"We used to have that higher funding rate and the National government cut it when they came into office. We're going to reinstate that and make sure that those services that are delivering the highest quality education are financially rewarded for doing that," he said.

Currently, services are paid more if they have more qualified teachers, but the top rate stops at 80 percent.

Mr Hipkins said Labour would also raise the minimum level of qualified staff from 50 percent to 80 percent by the end of 2020.

"The sector itself is already very close to or around the 80 percent registered teacher mark now, but it's very unevenly spread," he said.

"You've got many services employing 100 percent qualified staff and really struggling to meet the financial commitment of that, but then you've got other services that are down around the 50 percent mark."

Mr Hipkins said some services had increased the fees they charged to parents in order to employ an entirely qualified and registered teaching team and he anticipated they would be able to reduce those fees if they received higher subsidies.

He said a Labour-led government would also increase the sector's subsidies annually.

He said the policy would cost about $190 million over three years.

Educational Institute president Lynda Stuart said early childhood centres had struggled to pay for fully-qualified staffing teams since the top rate was removed.

She said too many services had less than 80 percent qualified teachers.

"Across the country we are well below the 80 percent. That's been happening over some considerable time," she said.

Peter Reynolds, the chief executive of the Early Childhood Council, said the government was spending more on early childhood education because there were more children enrolled, but the amount paid per child had not increased in real terms.

He said most centres now received about $100,000 a year less in government subsidies than they were in 2011.

Mr Reynolds said rather than reinstating the top rate of subsidy, Labour might be better off reinstating an agreement that ensured early childhood teachers got the same pay rises as kindergarten teachers.

"That stopped in 2011 and since then there's been four kindergarten teacher pay increases," he said.

"So now we've got a situation where teachers are pitted against teachers in our sector, effectively doing the same job, but as a result of government intervention being paid quite differently."

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs