ECC calling for government support on early learning relief teacher budget blowout

22 November 2022

The Early Childhood Council is calling on the government to support early learning providers facing ballooning relief teacher costs as the teacher shortage continues to bite.

An ECC member survey shows 78% of respondents are currently over-budget for relief teachers with only about four months left in the financial year, while 70% aren’t confident of even getting a relief teacher, let alone affording it, to cover illness or holidays.

The only winners are relief teacher agencies, who are taking advantage of the massive demand / supply imbalance to increase the fees they charge centres, with cost increases often then passed on to parents.

“The government needs to take urgent action – why can’t early learning get the same relief teacher support as schools? Without it, we can expect even longer waits for ECE places and parents being asked to pay higher fees,” said ECC CEO Simon Laube.

The ECC member survey revealed that waiting lists for places at early learning centres are now the norm, with 56% operating a waiting list in October 2022, 14% with a wait time between 7-12 months and 9% of over 13 months.

“Parents returning to work can’t assume there’ll be places available at their preferred centre. Our advice is to get your child on a waiting list fast if you want a better chance, ideally before they’re born if you’re planning on them attending at two years old,” said Simon Laube.

The early learning teacher shortage means the government’s Childcare Subsidy risks being seriously undermined before it rolls out due to a lack of teachers to meet the demand for places: 72% of survey respondents aren’t confident they could recruit a qualified teacher to fill a short-term vacancy, while 87% don’t consider recruiting overseas teachers a legitimate option.

“We know the children who miss out on quality ECE tend to come from more disadvantaged backgrounds and would stand to benefit most educationally. We want our tamariki to experience the benefits of early learning, and let parents get back to work properly, rather than the compromise of juggling work and children at home.”

“Extending relief teacher funding support to early learning would be a fair and practical way to help make ECE available to more children and whānau,” said Simon Laube.

“Early learning sector leaders have written to Minister of Education Chris Hipkins to make this request, saying this step would complement the Childcare Subsidy changes parents expect to see next year.”

Note on ECC survey

  • The Early Childhood Council regularly surveys its members, the survey collection ran between 20 October and 2 November 2022
  • There were 261 responses, equating to 714 centres when taking respondents with multiple centres into account
  • This broadly represents 26% of the education and care sector in New Zealand, a useful insight into our ECE sector

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