There is a widely held view currently that early childhood teachers have pay parity with primary school teachers. This view acknowledges the hard work put in by kindergarten teachers and their union to achieve a similar scaling and ‘step’ system to their primary counterparts.  However, this notion that early childhood teachers are on par with primary teachers as far as remuneration goes is not at all accurate.

This year, the minimum attestation rate for centres eligible to apply for funding at the top funding level (over 80 per cent qualified and registered teachers) increased from $21.54 to $21.65. This is the rate that ECE providers need to attest to paying their Bachelor qualified staff in order to receive the highest amount of funding.  Putting that into perspective, for a three year degree, the minimum a qualified early childhood teacher could be earning is only $1.45 over the revised living wage.  Compare this to what Q3 (Bachelor Qualified) teachers in primary receive as the lowest pay rate ($23.07) and the numbers begin to tell a different story as to what the true state of an ECE teacher’s pay is.

The problem becomes larger when you consider that through negotiation this year, kindergarten and primary school teachers will now have their teacher certification paid for by the government after it is apparent that the cost for teacher certification will be increased by up to 240 per cent. Added to that, from 2016 to 2017, Kindergarten teachers received a 1.94 per cent increase to their entry salary whereas all other Bachelor qualified early childhood teachers as a minimum received a .5 per cent increase between 2016 and 2017. This means that the gap between the remuneration that primary school teachers as well as kindergarten teachers and what early childhood teachers in all other services receive as a minimum is getting wider.

Another noteworthy figure is $19.74. That is the amount Diploma qualified teachers (level 7) receive as a minimum for centres to attest to receive the highest amount of funding.  Diploma qualified and registered teachers have the same role and responsibilities as kindergarten teachers and Bachelor qualified teachers and yet as a minimum receive 14.41 per cent less as a minimum salary.



The final major difference between primary school, kindergarten, and ECE teachers in other ‘services’ is that there is an obligation under the collectives for teachers to receive annual pay increases whereas there is no obligation for private and other ECE employers that don’t belong to a collective to give any pay rise to their employees, meaning that there are some teachers who have remained on the same salary for the past eight or more years.

Two things need to happen for all teachers to receive the same level of acknowledgment and remuneration:

  1. The funding for early childhood needs to be reconceptualised to include funding for teacher salaries and funding for operations, similar to primary schools and
  2. The minimum attestation rate for ECE teachers needs to be increased to at least match the entry salary for primary school teachers.

Unions will play an important part in making this happen. As it stands less than 25 per cent of early childhood teachers are members of a union.  Early Childhood United Aotearoa is hoping to change that and to provide an opportunity for all early childhood teachers to have a voice.

See response from Early Childhood Council’s chief executive Peter Reynolds here.

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