What ECE issues will you consider this election year?

05 March 2020

Welcome to silly season. It’s election year.

You know the drill – the campaign starts now. Get set for promises, accusations, gaffes, baby kissing and your Facebook feed filling up with political ads.

Before then, there’s the coalition government’s third budget in May. It’s going to be huge for the ECE community, as the Minister of Education has announced we’re his top priority, having seen high school and primary (and kindergarten!) teachers have their time in the sun.

We’ve already been promised the 100% funding band will return, and the entire sector is pushing for pay parity to be addressed. Watch this space.

Many of us will be looking through an ECE lens when trying to make sense of the political noise – if we lean left or right, it’s natural to consider your business, your colleagues and the children you’re teaching and caring for when casting your vote.

So let’s have a look – how has the coalition government delivered on its promises?

Promised in 2017

  • Increasing paid parental leave
  • Review of home-based ECE
  • A revision of the ECE Strategic plan
  • A return of the 100% funding band

Delivered so far

  • Increased paid parental leave
  • Review of home-based ECE
  • Revised but not implemented the Early Learning Action Plan
  • Reviewed Tomorrow’s Schools, with significant impact on ECE, not yet implemented
  • Commissioned the establishment of an Education Workforce Strategy, incomplete
  • A support package for services struggling with the ECE teacher shortage (finally, after 18 months)
  • A change to the Person Responsible rule to enable primary-qualified teachers to become Person Responsible
  • Two general subsidy funding increases of 1.6% and 1.8% respectively

How do you mark this performance? Sure, there are some good gains, with more signalled, but we still have significant issues in front of us like the teacher shortage and pay disparity that need solving. Not to mention frustration around regulations like Person Responsible.

During their time in government, the National-led government had a big impact on the ECE sector – and have promised plenty more in opposition. Let’s have a look at their record prior to 2017, and what they’ve promised so far.

National in government prior to 2017

  • Removed the top two funding bands
  • Introduced the 80%+ funding band
  • Removed the Childcare tax subsidy
  • Removed the PRT grant
  • Dropped the ECE Strategic Plan
  • Two subsidy increases of 2.5% on non-wage-related costs (effective increase was 0.84% each time)
  • A review of Te Whariki
  • Communities of Learning, with no funding for ECE and no partnership – while this was promised

What National has signalled in 2019

  • Stronger connections between health, education and science in commissioning research
  • Establishing a passport record of a child’s progress over time, with input from parents, teachers and medical professionals
  • Create a centre for child development
  • Investing in parents reading to young children
  • An intensive programme of ‘spot checks’ of ECE centres to check if regulatory requirements are being met and downgrading licenses for services failing to meet quality regulations
  • National proposes improving parents’ access to information about the quality of ECE on offer in their area
  • A number of changes around making it easier to qualify as a teacher, designed to alleviate the teacher shortage
  • Strengthened teacher training
  • Working with teachers to reduce unnecessary compliance and red tape in ECE services.
  • Exploring ways to ensure disadvantaged children are enrolled in and consistently attend high quality ECE, including partnering with community organisations to overcome participation barriers
  • In new school builds, consideration be given to supporting colocation of ECE services
  • Further encourage and incentivise schools to include early learning services or ngā kōhanga reo in their Communities of Learning

It’s a lot to consider, with the coalition government’s recent performance to weigh up against the opposition’s promises, and track record while in power before 2017.

Right now, ECC is pushing for a minimum 10% ECE funding increase in the May budget, spilt to benefit both teachers and centres – with pay disparity greater than ever, and the teacher shortage not going anywhere, it desperately needed.

To me, it’s time for a full review of the ECC funding system that was started by National in 2012 and abandoned in 2017. Let’s come to some common sense on regulation and funding with clear outcomes for children – and cut down on the red tape for our members.

In any event, I urge you to do your own research and talk to your colleagues and peers before you head into the voting booth.

Good luck! It’s going to be a fascinating year.

Peter Reynolds
CEO, Early Childhood Council

Peter's editorial first appeared in this month's issue of Swings and Roundabouts.

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