Lack of early learning funding relief will lead to more centre closures
Ministry of Education data shows 31 early learning centres closed between March and July this year – a number likely to grow unless meaningful early learning winter funding relief materialises soon, warns the Early Childhood Council.
“Centres struggling with high staff absences and low attendance are in the dark, wondering if much-needed help is on its way,” said ECC CEO Simon Laube.
The government has provided limited funding relief for centres hit by high staff absences and low attendance through the COVID and flu waves, but won’t clarify if it will continue or be cut off.
“The government acknowledges there is a problem, but the current response doesn’t go far enough. Meaningful steps around discretionary hours, funding band freezes and help with relief teacher support would all help centres stay open,” said Simon Laube.
The ECC is concerned centres and community-based providers will increasingly have no option but to close, with funding shortfalls set to increase dramatically from January 2023 when Extended Pay Parity takes effect.
The ECC is calling on centres facing winter disruptions to let the government know their specific situation, so the scale of that problem can get more fully assessed.
“The lack of clarity is hurting centres today – the Ministry needs to listen and focus on helping them, not reintroduce paperwork as if the COVID and flu waves are all over. Coming out of the pandemic, participation and access to quality early learning is crucial, so parents can get back to work and children benefit from quality care and education,” said Simon Laube.