By: Simon Collins

Pt Chevalier Kindergarten whānau chairman Stuart King said he was notified today that plans to hand over the kindy from January 1 to the kindergartens’ subsidiary company KiNZ have been abandoned. KiNZ had planned to charge $335 for a week’s full-time daycare.

(Left) Pt Chevalier Kindergarten parents like Shona Grundy, above with daughter Eden, saved the kindy when the local school needed its site in 2011, and have now stopped it turning into a daycare.

Auckland Kindergarten Association (AKA) interim chief executive Pauline Winter said she was now working through proposals from people bidding to review the association’s strategy of extending hours at all 107 kindergartens serving 10,000 children across Auckland.

Child Forum chief executive Dr Sarah Alexander said a parents’ revolt at the association’s annual meeting last week had saved the kindergartens from “privatisation”.

“It’s an extraordinary thing that’s happened,” she said.

“The AKA was taking on behaviour that you would expect from a privatised organisation and moving away from the kindergarten model of free public preschool open to every family.”

More than 1300 people signed a petition against the planned changes at the Pt Chevalier kindergarten, which has a roll of 55 children.

Waitakere Kindergarten Committee chairwoman Jo Jukes, who was one of three parent nominees elected to the AKA board last week, said there was a full turnout of kindergartens plus a candlelight vigil by about 80 parents, teachers and supporters outside the annual meeting.

“It was just wonderful to see so many committees having stood for the sole purpose of having a voice, and it prevailed,” she said.

She said the meeting voted unanimously to require any further changes to gain majority approval from a steering committee in which half the members would be elected by the community and half would be AKA teachers and staff.

It also agreed to let teachers speak freely, to require disclosure of financial information and consultants’ reports, and to hold a special meeting to put the AKA constitution on to a more democratic basis.

The Auckland kindergartens have been officially free for 20 hours a week, using the Government’s 20-hour free scheme. However parents have been asked to pay “donations” of $1 an hour for those 20 hours, plus a $5 an hour fee after that.

Normal operating hours have been 8.30am to 2.30pm, during school terms only, with parents able to enrol their children for either half-day “sessions” or the full six hours.

Under the previous strategy adopted at the start of this year, the hours were being extended by one hour to 3.30pm, kindergartens would have stayed open through the school holidays, and half-day sessions would have ended except where there was sufficient demand.

Former chief executive Tanya Harvey told parents in March that the changes were to meet the needs of parents who were being forced by unaffordable housing to work full-time hours.

Thirty kindergartens, mainly in low-income parts of South and West Auckland, have already been moved to the new model.

But in response to parent objections in the other, wealthier parts of Auckland, the AKA board halted the changes for the remaining 77 kindergartens and ordered a review of the strategy in October. Harvey resigned two weeks later.

Winter, a former head of the Ministry of Pacific Peoples, said the new board would wait for the independent review before forming a new strategy.

“We have called for proposals for an independent review,” she said.

“I have only just got the proposals. I need to work through them and make sure all the feedback is considered. It’s not going to be rushed.”

As well as Jukes, the new board members are a Ponsonby Kindergarten dad Chris Barrow and the former principal of Swanson School, Bruce McLachlan, who was asked to stand because he championed “free play” at Swanson.

Source: NZ Herald

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