Early learning forgotten in government attendance push

11 May 2022
A pre-budget announcement of $88 million to address school attendance has completely ignored early learning. If the Government was serious about improving educational attendance they’d start at its foundation with more investment in early childhood education, says the Early Childhood Council.

The Ministry of Education’s own figures showed early learning attendance was consistently 5-11% lower than schools in April, showing an even more urgent need for action.

“That’s 35,000 of our youngest children who were expected in centres staying home instead on a given day. If we don’t take action to support early learning participation, disengagement becomes the norm and tamariki miss out on the lifelong benefits from quality early childhood education.” said ECC CEO Simon Laube.

Numbers attending early learning since the move to the Orange traffic light setting are well down – which only increases the pressure on centres that have faced challenges through the pandemic.

“Parents facing added cost pressures are working from home to reduce early learning costs – or they’re keeping children home out of COVID fears, despite statistics showing lower infection rates in ECE than schools. Either way, a child’s education and wellbeing is affected, while spelling financial doom for centres,” said Laube.

“School staffing is guaranteed for a year, while enrolment numbers dictate centre funding on a per-child and hourly basis in early learning. This means in the school sector, teacher staffing levels get certainty, and in early learning we see the opposite.”

“It’s time to expand initiatives like 20 Hours ECE that significantly reduce parent fees by giving parents more hours, because this approach would give centres more funding. The benefits of 20 Hours ECE, as a scheme, has steadily eroded since it was introduced in 2007. Early learning fees will fast become unaffordable for many. The government must take action now, ECC is keen to work together to design an effective solution.”

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