At the National Parenting Forum held in Wellington, from the 18th to 19th Sept 2010, a number of MPs spoke at the Parents' Centre event.
National's Katrina Shanks explained that politics was often described as being about who gets what, when and why – and that parenting is no different. She said that the real measure of success in the end is not the GDP but if mums and dads have access to paid jobs. She said that change can happen in the early childhood sector without adequate consultation with parents. A group of parents had approached her about the Wellington Kindergarten Assn deciding to change the licences of many of their sessional kindergartens to full-day services. They were concerned because they didn't feel they had been adequately consulted with. Ms Shanks likened the move away from sessional kindergarten to taking the vanilla out of vanilla essence.
Peter Dunne talked about changes in the lives of families and about parenting, giving some extensive information. He mentioned a Bill to be introduced to parliament for paid parental leave for 12 months.
Heather Roy was next to speak and she spoke about the work achieved in the area of special education. What concerned her was the lack of talking and working between government departments. It would benefit children and families if we could break down the silos around education, health, and social policy.
Sue Moroney agreed that politics is about priorities. She expressed disappointment that National had withdrawn from its commitment to be part of a cross-party caucus on children's issues – an idea that had been proposed by Every Child Counts. A forward thinking government sees ECE as an investment and funds it accordingly; it does not cut back on funding. Ms Moroney expressed concern that National was putting funds into supported playgroups, and that this would see a 3-tier ECE system.
Sue Kedgley discussed pressures on parents to work. She said it was important for children to have time to be with their parents. She also said that quality early childhood education was important. She had put through a Bill for flexible work hours so parents would not be discriminated against in the workplace.
While a lot was said by those on the political panel about the importance of parenting and of young children having time with their parents, nothing was said about how ECE policy may be developed to promote this ideal. Currently, education policy and in particular the rules around ECE funding of part and full-day services can work against this ideal.
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