ECE quality concerns and teacher shortage highlight funding issues

19 March 2018

News stories today about the dire shortage of qualified early childhood teachers and poor quality care  at some centres have again highlighted funding issues and the importance of the ECE pay equity claim that NZEI Te Riu Roa is developing.

The ECE per-child funding freeze for the past eight years has stretched services to breaking point, and the previous government pushed increased participation at the expense of a quality experience for children.

The previous government also stopped fully funding centres that employed qualified teachers as more than 80% of their staff, and allowed services to have up to 50% of their staff as unqualified workers.

NZEI National Secretary Paul Goulter said the Radio New Zealand reports showed that many centres were bending and breaking those ratios, both to save money and because it was extremely difficult to find qualified ECE teachers.

“ECE services have been bled dry over the past eight years and it can be a discouraging sector to work in. Teachers want to do their very best for the children, but too often it’s simply crowd control.

“There’s no incentive for people to train or remain as ECE teachers or for untrained staff to get qualified – we’ve had people tell us that they know their service doesn’t have funding for extra teachers, so getting qualified could mean losing their job,” he said.

Mr Goulter said services needed increased funding, and the pay for ECE teachers and staff had to increase dramatically if children were to receive quality care and early childhood education.

“That’s why NZEI has a pay equity claim underway for ECE teachers and staff. Our members are sick of being paid as glorified baby sitters because ECE is just seen as ‘women’s work’.

“They’re experts in child development, behaviour and psychology. It’s their job to instil our very youngest learners with confidence, resilience and a lifelong love of learning. It’s a brilliant job, an important job and should be paid accordingly.”

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