ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary Education

ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary EducationLead advisor on early childhood care and education 
National membership 

Publisher of the New Zealand-International Research in Early Childhood Journal


ECE Sector Survey May 2013

© ChildForum


Early Childhood Education Survey

May 2013

This is the first report on a new survey by the ChildForum Early Childhood Network.  

The survey of 250 people during the first week of May 2013 asked whether NZ early childhood education would in general get better or worse over the next 12 months.  Respondents were also invited to comment on the situation in their early childhood service or organisation.  Respondents from a couple of other countries were surveyed too about their ECE and their feedback is quoted, where relevant, to put context around the NZ ECE survey findings.


What is going to happen to the ECE sector in the next 12 months – The judgement

Only 10.4% of respondents thought improvement in the early childhood sector would be seen in the next 12 months and a far greater 56% thought it would worsen. 

The remaining 33.6% believed it would continue pretty much as it is now. 


Reasons why it was thought the ECE sector would worsen or improve

Respondents  reasons for rating the ECE sector as worsening, improving, or staying the same, overwhelmingly focused on the financial situation for ECE services,  the wider economic climate, threats or aids to professional standards and teaching, and trust or otherwise in Government to address what they saw as problems that mattered.  Examples of the range of reasons respondents gave for how they thought the ECE sector would change (or not) are shown in the Table below by way of direct quotations.



Staying the same

ECE finances

Funding has not been reduced.


ECE finances

Falling birth rates to the number and size of new centres opening means centres struggling more to keep rolls filled.     

Large crèches offering more hours will make it harder for small community crèches to keep their numbers up. 

Lack of funding and funding cuts means work conditions will worsen. And let’s face it they aren’t that great for a lot of teachers.

Funding not being increased to match GDP increases. National Government will still be in. Kindergarten teachers contract up for renewal and it looks like many of our current conditions are under threat.

No funding increase again and for licensed service providers petrol costs increase hugely to meet each child monthly.

Govt now expect us to fund Teacher Registration and new graduates still expect a high level of Teacher Reg support. It is harder to introduce fee increases as parents can't afford to pay more. The Govt won't recognise that whilst trained teachers are off the floor on non-contact time they are recording and documenting children's learning and yet we get penalised by not being able to claim funding for them.

Our expenses will keep increasing e.g., wages, rentals, equipment, insurances, etc.

ECE finances

No big changes.

As long as funding remains the same.     

Numbers are lower than what they were last year, and there are no signs of improvement.  

We still strive to provide a quality learning centre however the expenses now outweigh the income.  It would be great to see an increase in ECE funding rate.               

Election year promises won't happen until next year, so there will be no change/increase in funding.


Economy improving.




More job losses mean fewer children in full daycare.

There appears to be a lot of families moving out of the area to find work.               

Ensuring there is quality affordable ECE for everyone is getting harder and harder to achieve; the gap between those that can pay and those that can is getting bigger.

Govt has already begun to take away from parents the childcare and household rebates.

No jobs for teachers - oversupply of ECE teachers and too many primary teachers in the industry.


The economic climate cannot provide the small part time jobs expected by families -in particular single families.

I think the economic climate will remain unchanged.

Families are still struggling.

The recession is still having an impact on enrolments, parents are being made redundant so childcare is the first expense to go.  

Professional / Practice

The profile of the importance of quality EC services within my organisation is rising. 

There is so much competition that I believe ECE services would continuously need to review their service delivery.

Added reflection on practice which is the cornerstone of quality care.

We are improving all the time with new ideas etc.

Sector is quite stable.

Teachers are more concerned about keeping their jobs so working better.

Lots of great teachers coming out of training.

Improvement and moving forward preferred.....

Professional / Practice

Unqualified teachers, leaders with no vision /purpose.

Less trained staff.

Ratios too high.

Difficult working with team members who do not have a shared understanding of language: Te Whariki, professionalism, assessment, positive guidance to name a few. Changes the shape and dynamics of teams.

Effects of lower levels of qualified teachers will get worse.

Changes to access for teacher education for less academically prepared people.

Female teacher/association management resistance to male intrusion. The old girls network.

Reasons for worse - winter months here, money issues, health issues, relocated children needing re-settling and stressed teachers trying to get homes built etc.,  earthquake stuff.              

Professional / Practice

Depends on the management’s attitudes and support/information from MoE.

There are good and not so good services. Funding and other issues are unlikely to affect this in the near future. Good services will cope well with social services changes no doubt.

Theory always goes forward.  The work is always rewarding.

We are trying our best to not cut corners for children to save on costs.     

Government & Public  Service

Provided the Ministry of Education review of the Home-based sector within ECE goes ahead, then I see the whole sector will benefit, as will the MoE's goal of 95% children in ECE.

I am hoping that pressure from the Early Childhood Sector will impact on government policy.


Government & Public  Service

Pressure on beneficiaries for their children to attend ECE - I do not agree with such a judgemental legislation. Better to put govt money to families that need support regardless of whether in employment.

The 15 hour social obligations will cut out of community based ECE services for some sectors of society. This will limit choice for parents and children may have to be moved from centres where they are thriving.

Our Government doesn’t value our children and their early years.

There are too many large centres going up, taking children almost farming them, we need small numbers not farms.               

Privatisation continues to lure investors with focus on profit rather than quality.

This Government seems to be focussing on accountability rather than quality provision for our diverse children and their families.

Am nervous about changes in ECE funding system (not yet announced).               

Because centres have been pushed to limits and can’t hold on forever.      

Government funding rules, lack of registered teachers, not bringing back the 100% benchmark, far too many for- profit centres opening up and saturating the need of families.

With no increases to our funding since it was cut by 14% in 2010 we are struggling, being required to pay another 3% towards Kiwisaver in real terms we continue to lose funding. The funding review looms in the future and being in a regional area with a low number of Maori and Pacific Island students (the government target) we have little chance of receiving any respite.

Continuing government policies that use the excuse to reduce funding to full time childcare in favour of small % of children who do not access ECE.

Bit worried about what the funding system will look like for participation targeted funding.

Government's single dimension approach that focuses mainly on participation and tracking children.

Government policy changing priorities for qualified teachers, spending less money.

Policy/Budget decisions impacting on the quality of teacher training.

Government policies go against earlier gains in quality ECCE for all. The MoE seems to be prioritising narrow views of education without care in ECCE, particularly worrisome for infants and toddlers. 

This Govt just keeps looking for ways to cut costs, and ECE is in the firing line!

With the budget looming, the Nats will probably chop some more funding.

The 20 Hours Free is becoming difficult to run especially with the stupid optional charge fiasco.       

Lack of support for funding innovation in the home-based sector.

Lack of funding, lack of respect for the sector from politicians, increasing stress on families resulting in inability to pay fees as well as having a detrimental effect on children and the family unit.

Government & Public  Service

Need a change of Government to make it better.

No change in Government over that time so I don't believe things will get better or worse.

No promising government policies and no improved teacher training.

I don't think there will be any new money in the budget so it will be a matter of trying to make do with what we have already.                However, it is Budget next week.

Unless there is an unforeseen change in the ECE sector as a result of Budget announcements.               

It depends on the Budget, if the Budget is cut further we are going to sink, if it is increased we are going to be ok and be able to give a pay increase to staff. If it stays the same eventually we will have to make cuts as we have no other forms of income except WINZ payments and MoE funding. 

On the plus side ERO's new methodology could encourage services self-review leading to improved outcomes for children.  On the 'worse' side I have a feeling more funding cuts (or at least no cost of living increases) will be one of the features of the upcoming budget. 

The Government announcement of investing $80.5 million of operating funding over four years in Budget 2013 to support parents and communities play their role in lifting the educational achievement of young people, will be strongly weighted to Schools not ECE where it begins.               

We seem to be running on the same breath for the past three years since I became a teacher.  There is still no pay parity.  I would dearly love to see more men being encouraged into Early Childhood. Ministry of Education keeps putting things on hold.     

People are waiting on tenterhooks to see what will happen with the upcoming Home Based Review - which is on hold.               

We are hoping it won’t get worse but this Government is showing consistent lack of valuing ECE.  The lack of funding for special needs children and support is of grave concern.  Also family needs are changing and more support is required there as well. 

Low level funding in this sector of education shows lack of initiative on the part of Government to keep up with research which places high emphasis on the importance of  high quality nurturing relationships in small groups to develop healthy, balanced children capable of making valued contribution to society in the future.

What is interesting to consider is why respondents thought these things had a significant bearing on the early childhood sector.  For example a focus on the economy as a determinant of the outlook for the ECE sector suggests a view that a purpose of ECE can be something other than providing an educational experience for children, it is closely tied in with the labour market and parents’ needs for somewhere to leave their child that is affordable. 


The good and the bad things happening at the moment in ECE services and organisations

Among the responses received many good and many more not so good things were mentioned as happening in early childhood services and organisations.  The not so good or unwelcomed things were mentioned as being managed or coped with (sometimes only just), but there was also fear of a snowballing effect particularly when dealing with multiple challenges.  

The main concerns were:

  1. continuing establishment of new ECE services and creation of more child spaces,
  2. less demand for childcare by some families and in some areas,
  3. funding not keeping pace with inflation, higher costs, and expectations for providing a quality programme,
  4. families being less able to afford or accept increases in fees and other charges,
  5. uncertainty as to what might be required of them by the Ministry of Education and when (particularly in regard to the review of the Home-based sector), and
  6. lowered political expectations (and funding) for the employment of ECE qualified and registered teachers  - with implications for the range and number of ECE teacher training options, the ECE job market for graduates , ECE service’s ability to meet the wage expectations of and retain well-qualified staff, and having less well informed teachers requiring more supervision and support.

A picture of a united early childhood sector did not come through strongly in the feedback –  there was a tendency for respondents to  view services as being in competition, particularly when it came to attracting and retaining enrolments,  funding, and status in relation to having qualified staff (or not), and being home or centre-based.  It is something to keep an eye on and see whether and how this changes as more is revealed about government’s new funding approach for the ECE sector leading up to likely implementation in 2015.  

Is the situation for ECE in NZ any worse than in other countries?  Not necessarily so, according to some overseas respondents, as for example one wrote “I work in an International Early Childhood Preschool in Singapore. It is a profit driven school so class numbers are high for the size of the classroom.  Another explained that her “Nursery was council run but council has privatised all childcare in the whole county and commissioned some groups. Other groups have been scrapped and staff jobs have been lost”. 

Below is a list of the replies received from the 250 NZ respondents to this survey in regard to how things were going in their particular early childhood service or organisation.  Where two or more responses were the same or very similarly worded these were not all included.  Responses that only stated the type of ECE service or organisation the respondent was from or gave a brief reply with little explanation have also been omitted from the list below.  

Economic Conditions Impacting on Children and Parents in ECE

  • Childcare service low socio-economic area:  Parents still cannot pay their fees, their children have inconsistent amounts and quality of food, they are dressed inappropriately for the weather, however, parents do seem more engaged with their children's learning.
  • We are a new private ECE centre and building up well - although there are a lot of people out there who cannot afford to pay even the smallest amount for care and they are still missing out because the 20 ECE hours are not really free.
  • Playcentres are also feeling the pain as many more mothers are working. The ability to be in a volunteer role and stay at home is not an option for many families. This is causing the loss of parents having the parenting training Playcentre provides and thus is eradicating many peoples’ opportunity to access parenting programmes alongside bringing up their children.
  • Infant numbers are reducing, possibly because when unemployment rises, younger children stay home with a parent. While not good for the early childhood sector, and not so good for the business, at times this is good for the child.

Enrolment Numbers and/or Business Competition

  • Community owned:  Full rolls but with new centres opening in our area keeping our quality staff is of paramount importance.
  • Not-for-profit community based centre: Relocated to a school ground, roll has increased, employed new teacher and therefore "centre has a future".
  • Centre service:  Our centre is facing closure due to child numbers dropping.  New centre nearby is attracting enrolments due to quality service delivery.
  • We operate in the Home-based sector and demand is good.  We are disappointed with the Auckland Kindergarten Association’s move across the board to offer full day kindy, as sessional kindy is something we really value and support  with the home-based educator stepping in for parents to provide the transport to kindy sessions.
  • Funding is tight. Rolls are always full. Demand is constant. We are a teenage parent schools ECE service.
  • We are a small, stand-alone, community based, not for profit early childhood service.  Late 2011 to late 2012 we had a substantial drop in our roll, so much so that when a staff member went on parental leave we did not replace her.  Our roll is increasing again, in time for her position to be filled in June.
  • Fine at the moment but there have been two new centres opening near us and they are offering great incentives to attract clients.
  • Care and education service:  Rolls have fallen, but so far no teacher has had to reduce their hours. We are enjoying fewer numbers on some days, but stretched on other days when an extra teacher could not be employed for some children who have high needs.
  • Community based service:  We struggled to maintain numbers last term.  Parents, who are in study had to remove their child once study finished for the semester, then re-enrol the following year when course recommenced.  During this time we found it hard to fill vacancies not that there was a lack of interest.
  • Community crèche: Constant struggle to maintain a full roll.
  • All day preschool:  At present we are alright. We do have some spaces in our U2 and O2 side but it has filled up in the past 2-3 months.
  • Full Day teacher-led:  We have a waiting list for under 2s but have several spaces available in our over 2s.  Over population of centres in our area and less funding has resulted in spaces being available and hard to fill.  Less income means less advertising etc
  • Private Childcare: Things are tight - we have full roles but funds down due to Free ECE hours limiting people attendance, with very few paying optional fees.
  • Full day care mixed ages: Spaces available, parents seem to not have much work and money is tight.
  • Home-based:  Decline in childcare and co-ordinators don't want to reduce their hours when numbers decrease.
  • Really good as far as curriculum, programme, and quality teachers. But finding it harder to fill spaces than before.
  • Low numbers - children who have gone off to school in the last 4 months have not been replaced. Another centre has increased their service to cater for under 2 yr old children...not good for us.
  • We have a very healthy roll currently. We are a Montessori Early Childhood Centre.
  • Ok, but enrolments are not at the level they were three years ago.
  • Enrolments have dropped and have had to cut staffing.
  • Community run centre with full rolls and a large waiting list.
  • Playcentres in some regions/centres are thriving for our organisation and some are struggling.
  • Privately owned, care and education centres - six across Auckland (owner-based overseas):  Varied depending on competition in area and the socio-economic status of communities.
  • Community centre numbers dropping due to too many centres and affordability.
  • Full-day facility: Enrolments and enquiries down.
  • Community-based, not-for-profit, mainstream:  Full enrolments. 20hrs ECE being utilised more than any other hours.
  • We have vacancies. We have 100% qualified teachers who are committed to ECE. We are a sessional kindergarten.
  • Private all –day: Okay so far but redundancies looming for some parents.
  • We are growing in terms of number of children enrolled compared to our forecast after the Feb 22 quake. We are positive moving forward.
  • All day preschool:  We have found that where parents would put their children in for a full week they are now only doing four days and having family look after them if they can.  This makes it hard on centres trying to fill those few odd days during the week.
  • All places full, but have found children under two are either staying at home or with a home-based caregiver.
  • Montessori over-2s only:  Things are good in terms of occupancy - completely full with a waiting list for the first time. 
  • Our numbers have been low and we have to work a lot harder at marketing our service.
  • We are struggling to maintain our infant and toddler roll.  Numbers in this area have dropped in the last six months and have not yet picked up.  We are now looking at another restructure - this will be our third in 8 years.
  • Going well, lots of children and settled staff.
  • Vacancies for the first time in a long time.
  • All day centre: Things are going well but always looking at more new enrolments, have all qualified staff and one in her second year of training.
  • Privately owned and we are continuing to survive in the very tough economic environment. Large competition from big corporations coming into the sector.
  • Very tough.  There is so much competition out there that everyone is fighting for a piece of the pie so to speak.
  • Private childcare: Too many centres in the Albany area - none of the centres is full.
  • I think there is stiff competition between EC providers as there are new centres opening all the time and in some areas there is an oversupply. Some older services which have really great care and education are not attracting families as the bright new purpose-built centres are poaching potential clients.
  • Enrolments going well.  Kindergarten.
  • Rolls are dropping. We are a community kindergarten with a mixed licence. Est in 1970.
  • Not as many walk-in requests for places as there used to be.
  • Home based care:  Good. It’s getting stronger and stronger.
  • Parents are withdrawing their children and choosing home care or public kindergarten or staying at home due to unemployment and unable to afford childcare fees (small private daycare centre).
  • We are a low-cost service with social work support.  For the first time we do not have a waiting list and have places available.  People are only attending for the fully subsidised times. 
  • Kindergarten: Positive, but feeling the effects of competition with centres and lack of funding.  We are in the process of making changes to our service to better meet needs of the community and demands from MoE.
  • Preschool private full day: We are full but waiting lists for over 2s have disappeared. Families are using less hours of care.
  • Enrolment numbers are low in our area and this reflects in our (kindergarten 3-5 year olds) centre too. Too many new centres are also opening up in our community which doesn't help!
  • We are pretty well placed almost full every day. The waitlist however is a little thin.
  • Children are becoming younger when they start kindergarten.
  • Parents sometimes struggle to meet the frequent absence rules.  These rules fight with the idea of participation and put parents off from attending.
  • We are ok. Numbers slow to climb back to last year but are there now and holding our own. From what I hear most other centres numbers are down so that will impact on us if it stays that way.
  • Three small mixed age full-time childcare centres:  Steady demand for places.
  • Could be better.  Needing our services to be more productive in recruiting families.
  • We are losing children and teachers are retrenched.
  • Community based centre:  We are still busy and full. Rural area.
  • Rolls have been down but we are fortunate in that we have a long standing reputation in the community.
  • Full day - private.  OK although too many new centres for a small area being allowed to start up.
  • We have a very stable staffing team with 100% trained and registered teachers and operate a very small community based, not-for-profit centre which are positives in our favour. However we have struggled to keep U2 roll full over the past 18 months, which has contributed to lower than normal income, both from MoE subsidies and parent fees.
  • Sessional gym ECE service which can have non-members children enrolled:  Numbers have dropped below what has been experienced in last 7 years.
  • We are a community based centre - full day licence.  We have a declining roll and unfortunately we have many families moving to Australia.  Other than that things are great, we pay for whole team professional learning and development, we are fortunate that we have a supportive committee that sees the benefit in this. We have a team of fully qualified teachers however the cost of expenses is continuing to increase - electricity, food, wages, etc., and effecting how we operate. 
  • Several families are cutting back hours or just using 20 hr ECE.  We have not been successful in growing our numbers despite an excellent teaching team and excellent ERO reviews. Costs are increasing and income is shrinking.
  • Home-based: New child enrolments have slowed so we remain for the most part fairly static at this point.
  • Early childhood company: Going OK but always need to keep on top of enrolments.
  • Roll is down considerably compared to this time last year.  Enquiries are not coming through (privately owned ECE centre).
  • We are a full day care and education centre and we are fully booked at present with a small waiting list.  We recently made two part-time staff redundant due to finances of the centre but are still working above the set ratio.
  • Things are looking better after a very stressful couple of years since the Feb quake. More children enrolled, particularly under 2s.
  • Home-based:  Competition is fierce, new centres, large home based corporations all competing for the same children. Kindy becoming more flexible for families all adds to the struggle.
  • Childcare: Bursting with under 2s, not enough 2s (this year, will change when the babies become 2s), bursting with 3s and 4s.  Since 20 hours ECE, have seen a change from full-time enrolments - all ages - to part-time with about 50% of 3s and 4s now being full-time and 20% under 3s.
  • Tougher - so many new licences have been granted in the area that it is having a direct impact on rolls of older, more established centres competing with the new, flashy ones.
  • Community ECE centre:  Steady, but continual work to keep roll up.  I foresee increasing pressure to extend our hours to match the corporate centres
  • Mixed age ECE Centre in Auckland:  We'd normally accept 18 months and over, but due to falling numbers have accepted 12 months and over. Low numbers a concern to all staff.  With no pay increase by management over the last two years, it is a concern.
  • ECE all day care: We are a new centre and are full with a waiting list. Our numbers will stay high as we offer a unique service to our local community.  Funding cutbacks may reduce attendance hours for certain children.
  • We are struggling with the amount of centres in Palmerston North.  We are one centre of a large organisation and so many centres are struggling with enrolment numbers.  There are way too many here.
  • We are community Kindergarten. Our biggest impact is the amount of corporate centres opening. They have saturated our area and can't even keep their own rolls full. Being 100% trained and registered, not for profit and having a large area for children is our point of difference. Government needs to give more support to parents to make a choice whether to stay home or put baby/child into care, a lot of parents don't feel they can make this choice financially.
  • Home based care:   Ok but slow to fill vacancies
  • Privately owned centre:  Struggling for numbers - due to too many centres in one area.

Employment Costs, Staff Training, and Staff Quality

  • Things are steady in our home based service.  It’s important to find people who want to be educators that love working with children and who aren't thinking $$$.
  • Employment contracts have changed as collective contract no longer sustainable due to funding cuts.
  • Community Crèche:  We are recruiting staff at the moment.  Not able to offer the same salaries as other services.  Difficult to keep the standard required by the Ministry.
  • Maori bilingual centre:  We are doing fine, however my biggest issue is being able retain quality staff and give decent wages when we try to keep fees low so that children can participate.  Not all families in this area can afford to attend as we are an all-day centre.  Lack of funds for ICT.
  • Full day, teacher led:  It is very difficult financially to maintain our higher than regulation standards. We are not prepared to cut our ratio or the service we provide so parents pay fees and staff are not paid what they are truly worth.
  • Wages for staff are increasing and we struggle to pay market rates.  Staff are here 'for love' not for the money! 
  • Needing early childhood workers of high calibre.
  • Private - full day:  My biggest headache is HR.  Why do youngsters not understand that standards of cleanliness are required?  What do people get out of gossip?  Are you getting an idea of my day? 
  • There is some uncertainty due to the government's focus on post graduate teaching qualifications.
  • Polytechnic:  Not many good knowledgeable teachers who can grow good understanding in students. Anyone and everyone can easily pass the course means early childhood education cannot achieve a high standard as a profession.
  • Tertiary provider:  Grim, we are anxious about applications dropping and other providers closing delivery sites.
  • Tertiary provider (Field-Based degree):  We are now only taking in one class of students per year, a direct result of a reduction in the required overall number of qualified teachers in ECE settings (80% or less) and 50% is acceptable! There will be redundancies in the tertiary sector.
  • Our student teachers will probably have problems gaining good employment when they complete.
  • Numbers of student teachers dropping and more having difficulty gaining full-time employment than ever before.
  • Numbers of students are still healthy although we anticipate a drop in International students applying to our course. There are fewer jobs available for graduating teachers with existing teachers holding on to their current jobs.
  • Tertiary: Numbers are down due to Government reducing the percentage of qualified teachers in services.  It seems as if we have taken two steps back in terms of ECE policy in NZ.
  • Tertiary education ECE:  Challenging time re student morale.
  • Some nerves about possible reductions in student applications for teacher education because of current 50% requirement.
  • Fewer enrolments for teacher education.  Graduates finding it more difficult to find employment. Fewer opportunities for professional development in centres.
  • Teacher Education Provider:  Difficult with the introduction from the Teachers council of the level 7 IELTS.
  • It’s challenging to recruit suitable students for our ECE Pasifika level 5 courses.  Positive outcomes usually outweigh the negatives which is great for course completions but where to for these students.....????

Meeting Costs

  • We work very hard at our community-based centre but in the next 6 months we will be 100% trained teachers, therefore this reflects on the budget. With funding caps of only 80% funding this impacts. Financially this leaves us worse but from a teaching and learning aspect this improves outcomes for children and their families. We will also begin building a new Centre by the end of this year and this leaves us vulnerable as we will no longer have a 'buffer' in case of hardship etc.
  • Community-based kindergarten:  Families are struggling - substance abuse and the results of it (parental arrest, rehab etc.,) are becoming more noticeable. Far more transient families - children attend for several weeks, and leave without paying their bills.
  • Privately owned centre: Owners spend money on overseas trips, expensive cars instead of resources for staff and children.
  • We are a community-based childcare centre and we are very full at the moment. We are stressed because we do not know how our funding will be affected in the upcoming Budget and we have 4 children with special needs out of our 34 children. Though we have been allocated time each day it is very minimal and we do not have staff, or money to put into extra staff to work with these children each day.
  • We are maintaining full capacity and have a wait list. However, we struggle to get any support with our special needs children. Since this is one of our passions to be inclusive, we just have to pay the price.
  • We are maintaining our 100% qualified teachers in ratio but have had to compromise on some resourcing, i.e. reduction in budget, especially running costs and resources and the reduction in the professional development budget.  We have had to dramatically increase our hourly fee for our parents/whanau.
  • We are a pre-school service catering for children from 3mths-6yrs Mon-Fri 7.30-5.30pm in Canterbury.  The last few years have been particularly tough and I have had to make several redundancies within our centres as we were operating at 100% qualified teachers and this unfortunately is no longer sustainable.  This year we have to make some major changes to the operating hours of two of our centres to make them remain viable much to the disgust of the staff, but there was no other option as we were steadily on the demise to the point if we kept going that way we would no longer be operational in a few years.
  • Overall the Government has cut funding to this early childhood institute which impacts on overall provision.  Cut backs have already influenced quality.
  • We are struggling to run an operational budget that is not in deficit for the year. We are also a not-for-profit service that was displaced after the earthquakes and we are struggling to find a long term solution for our service.
  • We are a community-based centre that is requiring earthquake strengthening. Our parents need to fundraise for this. There used to be a lot more discretionary grants that could be used for essential improvements. Teachers are wondering how we are going to fundraise for this as well as the materials required for providing a quality programme for our children.
  • Pacific centre: Trying to keep our heads above water
  • Financially tight due to budget constraints - we are a community-based not for profit early childhood centre.  Enrolment numbers are good but it is difficult for some families to meet our costs because of their own financial situation. Unfortunately we have to ask for a donation over and above the government funding we receive as the latter is not enough for us to operate on successfully.
  • Small private centre - small urban town:  We are finding it more difficult to make ends meet with the same funding and teachers’ expectations.
  • In our all day early childhood centre things are ticking along. Tight budgeting but we are well established, luckily.
  • At present funding is adequate for our outgoings. We are a community-based centre.
  • Community-based kindergarten: We are financially okay but would NOT like to lose any further funding.
  • We are trying to meet the needs of the community, but have had to change the fee structures to do this. Financially challenging at the moment.
  • We are struggling to meet costs and to keep afloat - two years of repressive policies by this Government is starting to really have its effect - we are worried about our future viability
  • We are not-for-profit and deliver high quality education and resources.  The govt funding does not cover this full cost and our landlord has given us a 43% increase in rent which means we may not even make a surplus.
  • Our centre is a community centre running throughout school terms 5 days a week 8.30 - 3.30 including a 3 and 4 hour sessions in the morning and a 3 hour session in the afternoon.  We have fully registered qualified ECE teachers.  We have to run to a very tight budget to cover the day to day running costs and parents fundraise for children's resources.
  • Community based early learning centre: Money unbelievably tight! Never money for new equipment. Constant fundraising just for basics. Even PD has to be fundraised for! Mostly it’s the staff doing the fundraising lately too. Parents struggling to feed/clothe children which we have never seen here before. Poverty is rearing its ugly head where we never saw it before. Is this just us or slowly creeping in everywhere I wonder?
  • All-day teacher-led: Hard work due to the financial constraints, thus the child-teacher ratio makes the learning environment difficult
  • Owner operated daycare: Lots of new centres in our area mean fewer enrolments. Income drastically reduced due to reduced funding the year before (we were 100% registered) and no additional income last year even though expenses have increased markedly.
  • Not-for-profit community-based early childhood centre:  For the past three years we have operated at a deficit.  We are in a desperate state as wages have increased and child numbers and associated funding decreased.  We have 100% qualified teachers and we are penalised for this!!
  • We are going ok but if any funding reduces we will find it harder to manage. It is a constant juggle with having staff become qualified now that we don't get the funding to pay the wages.
  • Feeling the effects of a saturated low quality market. Making choices based on funding rather than effective learning and care strategies.
  • We have 3 centres and 1 home-based service and we are finding things are ok
  • Struggling with money, resources, etc. (ECE mixed service).
  • Full day care two centres:  We have small centres but the funding options definitely make it more affordable for large centres to cope better. I do not agree with this trend. It goes against all research that small groups are better for this age group of children.
  • Community Kindy:  struggling to provide same quality level without significant operational deficit.
  • All day teacher-led private service. Struggling to get enough children at present and may have to reduce quality staffing. ELP's and studylink subsidies not processed putting added financial burden due to lengthy time delays.
  • We are a privately owned independent centre. We are struggling mainly due to clients being affected by the economic climate and struggling to pay fees. More funding from the Government would certainly help. Although we operate on a tight budget things are going very well for us.
  • Finding it hard to make ends meet.  Have had to make staff redundant (all day licensed private daycare).
  • Kindergarten: We are pressuring families more and more for donations, we have cut PD, and while we are maintaining commitment to 100 per cent qualified staff others are not because of affordability.
  • Childcare:  “Hard as”, as so much is focused on making money.
  • Great but no money for professional development and staff have not had pay rise In 5 years. Funding only just covers what’s needed.
  • Early childhood education and care centre: We have lost a considerable amount of funding, lost all teachers’ registration funding and decided to keep having 100% qualified teachers as we see this is vital for the professionalization of ECE teachers, and for quality care and education.
  • Ok but professional development is getting reduced. Purse strings have certainly tightened in kindergarten.
  • Struggling with deficit because of funding and lower numbers of children in our kindergartens.
  • As we now have 100% qualified teachers we are paying more in wages that is not reflected in the funding that we receive from the Government. We ran at a loss for the first time last year in 12 years.
  • As a community-owned non-profit centre we do not get tax breaks to offset Kiwisaver.  We are trying to provide a service that is affordable for the average family in our community and in a region with low wages we struggle to provide a service families can afford. We are desperate for the Government to recognise the regions as priority areas.
  • Really struggling to make the dollars go around and maintain the quality. We have had to do away with one teacher in our under twos centre this year. We have not replaced at all. That means one less adult in the mix. Not good enough!
  • Average to good, not as much funding as before putting pressure on teachers and families.
  • Our teachers need pay rises as we have had a total pay freeze for over 18 months, we have had a small fee increase to meet increases in general costs associated with our business but without the cost of living increase things are tight.
  • Home-based service: Going severely backwards especially GST payments and ECE hours.

Management and Professional Support

  • ECE mixed all day non-profit:  We are very blessed with the staff we have and the management committee.  Three staff 20+ yrs, 3 staff 9 - 15 yrs, 2 young staff in training. Three committee members 20+ yrs.  We all believe in why we are here and work for the children and families no matter what the Government dishes out (or not).  Because we do not have to earn a profit we are hanging in financially and have great support from our families and wider community. Our hourly rates are $4.50.
  • Our high number of registered teachers is reflecting in an improvement in the learning opportunities for children and teachers. Not receiving payment to support the teacher registration programme means I must be more focused on what professional learning opportunities are offered to staff. Being part of a university environment means the importance of EC education is accepted, and the status of the EC centres is rising.
  • We have a great national organisation, providing amazing professional development and support.
  • Kindergarten:  Anti-male bias resulting in actual agendas of intimidation/non-compliance and game playing.
  • Home-based care is under threat and needs more support to be competitive with other services.
  • Community-based: Good intentions on the top levels but management does not understand what goes on at centres on day to day basis.  Leaders do not lead well, no inspiration to the staff team, so staff just work for the pay without any enthusiasm; too rigid curriculum and children miss out on meaningful learning experiences.
  • The industry is still struggling with the notion of being professional. There are more centres still not participating in professional development.
  • There is a stronger push to consistent professional practices that are reflected throughout daily practices. Making sure that what we see and record is documented and linked back to theory and Te Whariki.
  • With less qualified teachers now allowed in our services, the profession is not valued, we are considered all too often as 'babysitters'.
  • Great. Relationships with families are good, children learn through play and interactions between adults and children extend their thinking.
  • ERO review and their new procedures for review have provided a clear and comprehensive framework for self-review (mixed aged, not for profit, education and care centre).
  • Private corporation full day care. It’s amazing. We are always looking at how we can be better and ask parents for feedback.
  • Really good.  Most of the teachers care and support children's learning.
  • We are a Christian Centre.  What I would like to see is teachers practising what they preach.  Based on the open door policy - I come back to the gender and sexuality issue - What happens to the Gay and Lesbian "parents"?  Does our centre turn them away?  I don't know... something to investigate.  But overall a great centre to work for.
  • The pressure to complete higher level qualifications and publish is being pursued irrespective of the impact on poor job prospects and policies heading in the other direction, i.e. lower levels of qualifications for private ECE business profiteering and mothers of young children in paid work. Tertiary education is not leading the way; it’s merely joining the march of profits before people.
  • Care and education group with 5 centres:  Three centres struggling linked to numbers of registered teachers/ funding trying to work smarter but ERO still has same expectations for quality that is difficult to provide with untrained staff.
  • Home-based service: We would like to see some specific training for the sector come into play for our co-ordinators/visiting teachers/ETL's/ Learning Advisors as they move from day-care to home-Based as the two are quite different.
  • Busy, fast paced, clock watching - breaks, non-contact, pick up and drop off times, etc., constrained by different levels of management.
  • Canterbury staff are still pretty deflated.
  • Terrible, everyone is stressed and unwell and overworked with no support, a parent trust that does not understand, management that spends more time having smoko breaks then on the floor, no communication, teachers who don’t want to be teachers anymore.
  • There seems to be a move for kindergartens to move towards day care philosophy e.g. the terms are getting longer and with the possibility of more contact with the children and less non-contact time for teachers.
  • We are an all-day centre under financial pressure and finding it hard to access quality non-contact times, although we are rostered for times in one hour blocks, quite often things crop up where this time is disrupted.
  • Solid, cohesive teaching team focussed on learning outcomes for children.  Team gaining greater depth of understanding of children.

Bureaucracy and Administration

  • I am a home-based provider with Diploma of Teaching ECE and see lack of recognition for the work we do with children as a major obstacle in moving forward. We cannot do our Teacher Registration or Bonding hours in home-based which I find incredible. We are still bound by the same regulations as other services but offer the ideal environment for early childhood learning and development.
  • Many of us in the kindergarten sector are feeling our conditions and children's learning and care are being undermined by Govt.
  • We are coping with the demands placed upon us by government agencies, and frustrated at the lack of collaboration within govt agencies when families need assistance.
  • Group Special Education ineffective or slow.
  • Playcentre:  Still getting too low a funding rate for the amount of compliance required (same as all other services, apart from staff hour count). Govt seems to think volunteers will keep doing more and more, but they risk killing this goose. Providing high quality ECE in marginal locations (rural, remote) has always carried extra costs, but we are more committed to those areas than Govt and it's causing stress. The easy answer would be to pull back to the cities, but that's not the right answer.
  • Home-based:  Frustrating - we are having to work to a centre-based model that is not always relevant.  The MoE and ERO still hold us to a model that isn't reflective of HB.  We welcome the review in this area. 
  • Home based childcare:  Not great, we are so limited and the Ministry of Education is in no hurry to try and look at it and give us some clear answers so we can move forward.
  • Home-based care:  Waiting too long for Govt to decide what they are going to do. Unimpressed with the new HELO organisation.
  • Home-based ECE:   It can be quite stressful at times with the prospective review of home-based services, as this adds an element of uncertainty. There seems to be a constant barrage of MOE administrative requirements.
  • Home-based care: We feel undervalued in the sector as we receive minimal funding compared to other providers and yet are expected to have fully trained teaching staff.  We also worry that the Ministry’s review of the Home-based sector will be led by the larger organisations...and that home-based services such as ours attached to a social service may not be heard.  In order to have quality home-based care a lot of teaching hours are required and we don't feel that the current funding structure shows this.
  • Need to get the home based review done to stop bad practices, as inconsistent application of the MOE regulations
  • Our service works with the most vulnerable children and under current funding for home-based we often say no instead of yes. We would like to reverse that trend and offer our expertise with those who do not access quality early childhood education. There is a social element to education with a gap to fill.
  • Hard going starting up and not receiving funding 5 months in advance! 
  • It’s difficult getting the families and educators to complete the basic mandatory tasks, like completing time sheets, and putting together a Civil Defence kit.  Way too much red tape – and, as always INCORRECT information coming from the MoE.  This result in a huge waste of time, resources and money!
  • Montessori:  As a manager, feeling ever more overloaded with paperwork.
  • Home-based.  OK so far. Things seem to be changing, though - parents using multiple ECE services. We have one child enrolled with us (for an hour morning and night). During the rest of the 5 days he attends 3 different centres.
  • Pressure from Head Office - expectations for so much more paper work, not appreciating they only survive because of the teachers - we need acknowledgement for what we do, even with all the social, cultural and political problems we cope with. We have to be one big organisation - taking away firms we can deal with so they have just one bill to pay - this doesn't suit all kindergartens as our needs are different depending on our area, and we want to support our local businesses.
  • The goal posts are moving quickly and training and on-going PD needs to provide the industry with understandable systems and up to date models which work, and do not require full on research for employees and managers who may or may not be trained.  It is understood that there is much diversity among ECE. However, there is one focus which I believe is top down and political and economic. This top down approach and demanding form of analysis compromise teachers of energy and will to really engage with children who need our full, complete and undivided attention to engage in learning. For example I spent many hours on a very sunny Sunday writing up and evaluating plans for my teaching practice journal. This is unpaid work completed on a weekend and in family time. Then I was expected to return to work with children refreshed on Monday. I feel that these undisclosed expectations are pushing teachers to engage in an unhealthy work life balance which has at the core a fear of failure or non-compliance. 

Discussion of what ECE providers and organisations can learn from the survey feedback

This May 2013 sentiment survey identified a very low level of confidence within the ECE sector - only 10.4% of respondents thought improvement would be seen in the next 12 months and a far greater 56% thought the sector would worsen.   In relation to individual early childhood services and organisations, feedback suggests that many are facing some quite major financial/ business operational challenges.  Needless to say the way Government controls, funds, and the standards it sets for the sector as a whole and for different service types does have a major influence, as does the economy and parental uptake of ECE and childcare. 

However, if  there is one thing we can learn from the feedback received here it is that not every ECE service is necessarily at risk when for example a competitor opens a new centre down the road or less government funding is received.  There is some suggestion within the feedback that it helps to have a business structure that can adapt easily, a supportive management and parent/staff team, and community relationships (e.g.  co-location with a school). 

In industries such as clothing and manufacturing, there will be those who are doing well and those who are not doing well. It is not expected that the Government will step in and stop other clothing retail stores from operating in the vicinity of a store that may be failing to attract customers and it is the same in ECE.  Businesses and services that do best are those that are able to anticipate and respond to change, and in ECE this may include changes in:

  • The demographic of the customer (family) base
  • Staff availability, capability and training level, and employee expectations for working conditions, payment, etc.
  • Parental demand for hours (for example as the economy improves and the labour market strengthens how easily can an ECE service respond to providing the longer hours that some parents will want?)
  • The prices of regular expenditure items (e.g. electricity, petrol), and new essential items (e.g. what if the police introduce a charge for vetting checks?)
  • Government funding amounts and what government chooses to fund (e.g. what if government reduces 20 Hour funding to 15 Hours in line with the number of hours considered optimal for the children of beneficiaries to attend an ECE programme?)
  • Changes in regulations, standards, building requirements and compliance costs.

This first ECE Sentiment Survey suggests an attitude toward Government for policy and funding, and the Ministry of Education for implementation, as being interlinked with how any one ECE service will fair over time. This is quite a powerful position that Government holds or is believed to be holding and one that brings with it, according to many respondents, a responsibility to meet sector concerns.

The reasons related to funding and government policies for predicting that improvement in the ECE sector is not likely in the next 12 months may be stronger this month due to the pending release of Budget 2013 and hopes about what it may or may not hold for ECE.  Subsequent surveys should show if and to what extent these reasons continue to dominate.  Next month’s survey will give insight into how the Budget 2013 announcements for early childhood education are received.

Thank you to all who contributed to this survey.


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