Many of the recommendations in this plan aim to improve the quality of care, teaching and learning that children experience in early learning services.
Improving adult:child ratios, increasing the number of teachers who are qualified, and requiring consistent caregiving should result in children experiencing more responsive interactions with the adults who support their learning and development.
Investing in the early learning workforce will help ensure that we have enough capable teachers, kaiako and educators and that they reflect the full diversity of New Zealand society. Improving the consistency of teacher salaries and conditions should help attract and retain teachers. Improved conditions could enable teachers to have more time to meet with parents and whānau and to involve them in curriculum planning and share information about children.
Additionally, by supporting research and innovation we expect that the early learning sector will develop new knowledge about how to better support children, parents and whānau.
Currently the Ministry provides some additional funding to early learning services to support disadvantaged communities. It is proposed to review this funding to ensure that it is adequate and that it best supports children who need it. The recommendation to develop progress tools will help teachers assess children’s learning and wellbeing in order to tailor education to their individual needs. Facilitating the expansion of wrap-around social services should also better support children and whānau.
It is proposed that the Ministry of Education would take a more active role in planning where new services can open, based on population and the service types that are valued by parents and whānau. It is intended to strengthen provision in te reo Māori to better support children’s pathways to Māori medium schooling and kura.
In some cases, the Ministry’s decisions about where and what type of services open in particular locations might lead to less choice where a poor quality service is closed or a provider is prevented from expanding.
The recommendations to review the funding for ngā kōhanga reo and playcentres are intended to ensure these valued services are maintained and strengthened. Additional governance and management support for community-owned services aims to better support local parent and community initiatives.
The government currently spends approximately $1.8 billion a year on early learning provision. This funding is paid to services in the form of subsidies for the hours children attend up to 30 hours a week (6 hours a day). Children over 3 attract a higher level of funding for 20 hours a week (’20 hours ECE’). Most services also charge fees or seek other contributions from parents. While services are regulated and funded by government, they are independent entities which make their own operational decisions.
A number of recommendations within this draft plan would increase the cost of early learning provision. It is the intention of this draft plan that affordability for parents will be maintained, or improved in those cases where affordability is a barrier to attendance. The expectation is that for these recommendations to go ahead, additional investment from government would be required.
The purpose of the draft plan is to test the level of support for each recommendation. Once feedback has been received there will be further work to be done to prioritise and plan the implementation of new initiatives.