Ministry of Education uses flawed data to impose further regulation on ECE Sector

28 September 2023

Closures of early childhood education centres and significant disruptions to services are on the cards in 2024 with the Ministry of Education set to enforce flawed regulations founded on incorrect data.

From August 2024, new regulations contained in the Education and Training Act state a ‘person responsible’ at each centre must at all times hold a category one or two practising certificate early childhood qualification.

The Ministry of Education’s regulatory impact statement supporting the changes states that: “Teaching Council data indicates that around 99% of current ECE trained teachers hold a category One or Two practising certificate”.

That data has been used by the Ministry to justify its view that early childhood centres will have little or no problem complying with the regulation.

However, following a query from the Early Childhood Council, the Teaching Council has confirmed the Ministry’s reference to its data does not correctly reflect the number of teachers who hold a current practising certificate.

Teaching Council data in fact shows it is not one per cent but likely at least 20 per cent of the ECE teacher workforce that does not hold a category one or two practising certificate.

Dismissing 20 per cent of current person(s) responsible will have a massive impact.

ECC survey results indicate 62 per cent of centres across the country will be unable to fully comply with the new person(s) responsible regulations, resulting in disruptions and limitations to services and as many as 100 centre closures nationally.

“This regulation is clearly flawed as it is based on incorrect or non-existent data,” Simon Laube, chief executive of the Early Childhood Council says.

“It will be catastrophic for many early learning centres in New Zealand that will no longer be able to comply with these new minimum requirements, impacting the ability of thousands of Kiwi families to access early childhood education.

“It’s truly shocking that the impact of the new regulation was not tested by the Ministry of Education prior to the law change to see how many centres would be able to comply. That basic check would have uncovered there was flawed data.

“There needs to be an end to regulating the ECE sector in this manner. We need to allow for managed transitions where the Government seeks to improve minimum standards. There needs to be time for services to be able to adjust. When you do improve minimum standards, there can be higher costs or impacts to services.”

The new regulation also changes what a ‘person responsible’ must do. The Ministry states a centre’s person responsible must be actively involved with children and staff at all times, meaning they cannot fulfil their duties when they are on a break or in another part of the centre, such as an office or kitchen.

This could mean that centres will need to have even more persons responsible so they can comply.

There are no plans for the Ministry to support this change by helping centres qualify for more persons responsible, addressing the current teacher shortage, or ensuring the new approach can be workable without centres needing to recruit more staff.

Just 37 per cent of ECC members surveyed stated that they could comfortably comply with the new person responsible requirements if introduced today, while 62 per cent said there would be a high risk to service provision.

Centres indicated they would consider limiting the number of hours they opened, or might not operate at all.

Just 14 per cent of the centres that indicated they would be impacted said they would be able to comply with the regulation by August 2024.

“The bottom line is this is poor regulation based off wildly incorrect or possibly even non-existent data – it needs to go, quickly,” Mr Laube said.

“This change was originally part of the proposal to regulate for 80% qualified teachers in the Early Learning Action Plan (ELAP). The sector is in a worse shape now than it was in 2018 before the ELAP was confirmed by the Government. It is no longer a robust plan to manage the changes required in the sector.

“The Early Childhood Council is calling on the Ministry to confirm that it will make rolling back this change a priority in its briefing to the incoming minister after the election.”

Early Childhood Council Survey Results

Of 181 centres surveyed by ECC:

  • 50% indicated the changes to the person(s) responsible legislation would create a high risk to the service from staff illness/absences and access to relievers if introduced today
  • 8% said they would need to limit service hours based on their available qualified staff
  • 4% said they would not be able to operate at all
  • With 2,700 services in New Zealand, those numbers would see 1600 operationally impacted and over 100 close altogether.
  • Of the centres that would struggle to comply today, just 14 per cent indicated they would be able to comply without disruption by August 2024

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