Early learning strategic plan ambitious given teacher shortages

19 November 2018

The Early Childhood Council (ECC) says the draft Strategic Plan for early learning sets ambitious goals to achieve in a decade, given the fact we have a significant teacher shortage in New Zealand currently.

The ECC welcomes the release for consultation of the draft 10-year Strategic Plan for Early Learning entitled ‘every child a toanga’ and looks forward to meaningful discussions to finalise the plan next year.

The ECC Chief Executive Officer, Peter Reynolds, says we support many elements of the plan, but will be questioning the rationale for some others.

“It is good to see continued focus on quality for the sector, and the fact early childhood education (ECE) is being recognised for the significant contribution it makes to education as a whole, and our society.

“We are pleased to see the intention of the strategic plan is to better enable our world-leading ECE curriculum, Te Whāriki,to be fully implemented, but Gazetting it will add to bureaucracy,” Mr Reynolds says.

“It is also pleasing to see ECE will be able to be equally included in aspects of the wider education system such as Communities of Learning, which shows an intention to better align ECE with schools and improve transitions for children.

“We support moves to improve access to ECE for disadvantaged communities, those with additional learning needs, and to better target equity funding.

“It is also important to ensure ECE operates on a level playing field across the sector, and for all parts of the sector to be supported equally,” Mr Reynolds says.

The strategic plan does not show an intention to review the funding model for ECE which is outdated and overly complex, discuss the cost implications of the proposals, or the fact we have a significant teacher shortage. We think these are important elements to consider.

The draft plan proposes specific additional supports for community-owned early childhood education, and we would like to see access to management support available to all services. The plan also includes ideas for operating state-owned early childhood education, which would establish a two-tiered ECE system and we would not support this approach.

“We wonder how attainable in ten-years it will be to increase staff numbers that will be needed to support the proposed new three age group adult-to-child ratios. We wonder where the increased teaching staff will come from given there is currently a significant shortage of teachers,” Mr Reynolds says.

“Our latest membership survey data suggests the teacher shortages in ECE are getting worse in parts of the country, and it is now taking centres carrying vacancies up to 100 days to fill roles, an increase of 30 days from a year ago,” Mr Reynolds says.

The proposals in the draft strategic plan are also likely to carry additional financial impacts on services, but it is unclear what those are at this stage, or what the proposed changes to funding and subsidy might be to support all of the proposed changes.

The ECC looks forward to participating in meaningful, inclusive discussions as part of the consultation on the draft strategic plan.