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Building a better ECE future together

Early Childhood Education (ECE) leaders representing a significant proportion of ECE across diverse provision, from community and home based, Kindergartens, and privately owned providers, met with Minister Seymour yesterday to discuss the challenges facing ECE and the potential solutions. This has not happened for a long time in our ECE history, and we owe it to our children.

“This was an opportunity for the sector leaders to have a robust discussion with Minister Seymour and outline the serious issues facing the sector,” says Jill Bond, CEO, New Zealand Kindergartens.

“It’s a complicated workforce, in that ECE is delivered through different operating models and philosophies, but what doesn’t change from one to the other is that as a group of professionals, we want children and their education, to be at the centre of decision making. In influencing the future, now more than ever the sector is united in bringing the thinking, energy and expertise to influence the future direction of an enduring systemic ECE.”

Kathy Wolfe, CEO of Te Rito Maioha agrees. “As a membership organisation that represents and advocates for the sector and trains the teachers, we want the government to have a good understanding of the many benefits of early learning to children, and to parents who can then participate in the workforce. Getting a system that supports these positive outcomes is our top priority, and that is why the sector has come together to work with the Minister. We want to ensure that any proposed work is sustainable and enduring for all.”

Kelly Seaburg, Director of New Shoots Children’s Centre and Advocates for Early Learning Excellence puts it like this. “For too long we’ve had a broken funding and regulatory system. It’s like a computer programme that doesn’t work. There is a long history of continual tinkering with the code, and it’s not surprising when it all stops working. We need an enduring investment funding model and regulatory framework that works for New Zealand’s ECE sector, not one that crashes on a regular basis.”

Minister Seymour has already indicated that one way in which he can assist the sector is through reduced red tape with the new Ministry for Regulation focusing on ECE.

“We agree with the Minister that regulation, and in particular the interpretation of regulations across different government departments and regional areas, is a major concern,” says Heather Taylor, General Manager of Barnardos. “We want to make sure that we get the future balance right. Regulations should ensure the safety and wellbeing of children, in support of their education journey. This is very different from the current tick box approach that we have.”

“The sector and government need to design and implement a regulatory framework that enables a high-trust, low-compliance, service provider accountability environment, that safeguards our tamariki,” says Mrs Taylor.

“The other keys areas of discussion with the Minister were the need to have a teaching workforce who are operating at the top of their profession, influencing outcomes for children, and not distracted and burdened by admin,” says Christine Hall, CEO of Central Kids Kindergarten Association. “We have to make sure that we are helping to shape capable and confident children, and that requires freeing up teacher time to focus on what is most important.”

“Currently there are teacher shortages and a significant number of teachers eyeing up Australian opportunities. Creating an enduring workforce strategy and valuing our teachers will go a long way ensuring demand can meet supply,” says Mrs Hall.

“The other area of concern is that the systems the government put in place, must work for the varied delivery across the sector,” says Raewyn Overton-Stuart, President of the Home Based Childcare Association. “The ECE sector in New Zealand has a range of providers and that delivers welcome choice for parents, but it does require the government to create a funding model that is flexible and works for all types of operating models.”

“We need sustainable quality ECE provision throughout Aotearoa, New Zealand and given the closures of providers across the country, that will require the government to work with the sector to build an investment funding model that quantifies government and parental investment, and reflects the actual costs of delivering high quality ECE. Flexibility in funding means we can innovate and make decisions that are best for our communities and children.”

“It’s clear Minister Seymour is open to thinking about what will work better in the ECE sector,” says Cathy Wilson, CE Montessori Aotearoa New Zealand. “We recognise there are always competing interests, but as a group representing the diversity of the sector, including providers and educators, we want what is best for early childhood education. And that is not continuing with the broken funding model and the excessive regulation. We need ECE to be accessible throughout New Zealand and backed by a strong and healthy workforce.”

“It was a robust and positive meeting, and the Minister listened to our ideas, “says Mrs Wolfe. “He wants to work with us on a regulation review and a funding review and we have in turn offered our collective expertise so that there is a good opportunity of successful outcomes.”

Jill Bond, CEO, New Zealand Kindergartens

Kathy Wolfe, CEO, Te Rito Maioha

Kelly Seaburg, Director, New Shoots Children’s Centre and Advocates for Early Learning Excellence

Heather Taylor, General Manager, Barnardos

Cathy Wilson, CE, Montessori Aotearoa New Zealand

Christine Hall, CEO, Central Kids Raewyn Overton-Stuart, Director, PAUA, Homebased Childcare

 

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