Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand says bipartisan support on the proposed reforms to early childhood education is essential, otherwise the sector is vulnerable to a reversal of policy direction.
‘If New Zealand governments, now and in the future, can commit to sustained investment in early childhood education, that investment will bring dividends in the decades to come,’ says Te Rito Maioha Chief Executive, Kathy Wolfe.
‘The timeframe for implementation of the proposals in the draft Early Learning Strategic Plan is the next ten years and beyond. That’s why it is imperative that the current government gets bipartisan support from the Opposition for the changes.
‘Experience shows us that if this is not achieved, the ECE sector is vulnerable to a reversal of policy direction. This is likely to have a negative impact on the provision of early childhood education, just has it has done over the past decade.’
Ms Wolfe says that in its submission, Te Rito Maioha supports many of the recommendations in the draft plan, especially those that address issues the early childhood sector has been asking the government to pay attention to for nearly a decade.
‘We believe that having more qualified teachers, better teacher to child ratios and smaller group sizes are a must if young children are to receive the best start possible to their education,’ says Ms Wolfe.
‘However, these objectives will never be achieved if early childhood teacher salary and conditions are not improved, including parity with their primary and secondary school colleagues.
‘There must also be more support for ongoing professional learning and development, which is another area where primary and secondary school teachers are far better off.’
Ms Wolfe says Te Rito Maioha would have liked to have recommendations that reinforce early childhood education as an essential part of the New Zealand education system, which is integrated for our tamariki aged 0-18.
‘There seems to be a disconnect between the Early Learning Strategic Plan, and the recommendations of the Tomorrow’s Schools review, for example.’
Lynda Stuart, president of union NZEI Te Riu Roa, agrees with this point, stating that early childhood education should be part of the Tomorrow’s Schools Review discussions.