Raising quality, improving equity and the role of choice will be the key areas of focus for the 10-year Early Learning Strategic Plan, which is now underway.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins today released the terms of reference for the plan and announced the appointment of members to the independent Ministerial Advisory Group (MAG) and a Reference Group made up of sector representatives and academic experts. The advisory group is chaired by Professor Carmen Dalli and includes Professor Meihana Durie, Dr Alex Gunn, Professor Stuart McNaughton and Dr Tanya Wendt Samu.

The advisory group and the reference group will develop the strategic plan alongside the Ministry of Education.  Public consultation on the draft strategy is expected to begin in September 2018.

Hipkins says there is a strong case for having a strategic plan to set out a systematic and stepped approach to continuing to develop and strengthen the early learning sector, to meet the needs of children and their families and whānau.

“Quality early learning provides children with a strong foundation for their future learning that can influence the rest of their lives. It’s also hugely important to working parents,” says Hipkins.

“The development process will take into account the Government’s stated objectives for early learning, including revisiting decisions by the previous Government that have undermined the shift towards a more qualified workforce. Over time, this Government’s aim is to achieve 100% qualified teachers in all centre-based teacher-led early learning services and to improve group size and teacher: child ratios for infants and toddlers.”

The early childhood education (ECE) sector has welcomed the plan. Chief Executive NZ Kindergartens Clare Wells says it’s time to get New Zealand’s ECE back on track.

“The government’s focus on ensuring the provision of high quality early childhood education is to be applauded.”

NZEI Te Riu Roa National Executive member and kindergarten teacher Virginia Oakly said the plan is long overdue.

“Our members have been really active in this for some time, and have raised issues about  ECE quality including child-to-teacher ratios, under-funding and the need for 100 percent qualified staff, and also not having enough teachers coming into, and staying in, the sector.”

Hipkins also announced a renewed focus on home-based ECE. The Ministry of Education will develop a discussion document on home-based ECE, with public consultation expected to start in July 2018.  The terms of reference for the Government’s review of home-based ECE have also been released.

The Early Learning Strategic Plan Terms of Reference can be found here and Review of Home-based Care Terms of Reference can be found here.

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