The latest OECD report on early childhood education (ECE) underlines the case for 100 per cent qualified teachers, and casts the government’s repeated failure to restore funding for teaching staff in a poor light, says Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand (ECNZ).

Commenting on the publication of the OECD’s Starting Strong 2017: Key OECD Indicators on Early Childhood Education and Care [1], Kathy Wolfe, CEO of ECNZ, said the research showed the government had no excuse for maintaining the minimum requirement for teacher-led centres at 50% qualified staff while claiming to be committed to quality learning from 0-18.

Starting Strong 2017 repeatedly stresses the importance of skilled, trained teachers in ECE to achieve the best possible progress and outcomes for children,” said Kathy Wolfe. “Participation rates and access are important – we agree with the OECD and the government on that – but what stands out in this report is the need for properly trained teachers to deliver the educational and developmental benefits that government expects from ECE.”

The Executive Summary of Starting Strong 2017 cites “improving the working conditions and professional education of ECEC staff” as one of the challenges for improving the ECE sector. It also observes that the salary of ECE teachers is far below that of other degree qualified workers.[2]

Just two weeks ago ECNZ, NZEI Te Riu Roa and New Zealand Kindergartens issued a joint statement calling for a commitment to 100% qualified teachers. In response to a meeting with the three organisations following that statement on 6 June the Minister for Education did not address this core issue, merely reiterating the participation growth and investment, (for which we commend the Minister) into learning support, at-risk and disadvantaged children in the Budget.

In another related report published simultaneously the importance of trained ECE teachers is also highlighted as crucial to the success of children moving from pre-school to primary school. Starting Strong V: Transitions from Early Childhood Education and Care to Primary Education[3] even uses New Zealand as an example of the benefits to children of boosting teacher qualification. This report cites the 2002 Pathways to the Future plan which established the 100% qualification target to be achieved by 2012.[4] The present government abandoned that plan in 2010, cutting the qualified teacher requirement to 50%. Teacher numbers continued to rise to meet participation but the funding was withdrawn and teacher-led centres have found it increasingly hard to maintain teacher numbers, provide continuous professional development and many have been forced to reduce them in order to keep up with rising costs.

Kathy Wolfe said: “It’s time to make every child matter! We once again call on the government to pay heed to expert advice and fund 100% qualified teachers to engage with our 0 – 6 year old tamariki who deserve the best start to their education.”


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