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Funding Priorities and Confidence in the Government – What people in the Early Childhood Sector Say (April-May 2018)

Confidence and Funding Survey Report
By ChildForum Early Childhood National Organisation
16 May 2018

 

check boxesOver one week at the end of April 2018 an open online survey was run to find out the opinion of 555 people in the early childhood sector on:

  1. Whether the government is taking early childhood education in the right direction.
  2. If things are expected to improve for the sector over the next 12 months. (This was also asked in two previous early childhood surveys in 2014 and 2013. Comparing the latest results with peoples past responses under the National-led government can give insight into whether a change of government may have altered sentiment in the sector and in what direction.)
  3. What the Government’s top priorities for the forthcoming Budget should be

  

1. Confidence in the Government

Some people have confidence in the government to take things in the right direction for early childhood education (26%), but many feel that it’s too early to say or have seen nothing yet that gives them confidence (32%). 

There are also many who feel that things are heading in the wrong direction (42%) and have little or no confidence in the government to make the right decisions and do well for early childhood education.

 

TABLE 1.  Confidence in the government to take things in the right direction for early childhood education

Right direction

Wrong direction

Confidence rating (100 points plus the difference between the right and wrong)

Can’t say

Total

%  respondents

% respondents

Points

%
respondents

%
respondents

26

42

84

32

100

 

Reasons given for feeling confident that the government is taking things in the right direction included:

  • Government are thinking of taking more control of Early Childhood. They don't see why ECE should be different from other sectors in education.
  • They have made a commitment towards funding 100% qualified teachers.
  • I like that they are noticing the effect privatisation has had on the sector and am hoping this will mean more support for community not- for-profit kindergartens.
  • The government has started a review of home-based care and education which is long overdue.
  • Early childhood provision outside of home needs to make serious consideration of what is in the best interest of children and this requires a clear vision and thoughtful plan.
  • With a more left-wing approach, there should be positive changes for education in general.
  • Yes, I do think the government is making all the right noises however I would like to see some changes occur sooner rather than later.
  • I feel that as long as there is a conversation and ECE is in the forefront of their considerations we can all have a say.
  • They are embarking on sector wide consultation but I do worry what the so called experts on the panel will do with the information.
  • I like the wrap around approach. Because it's not just about us... it's about parental leave, tax credits, support for vulnerable people, health and housing. ECE is part of AND benefits from these changes.
  • I think this government will try harder to protect the smaller community based preschools
  • Scrapping universal standards, COLS, the old cohort to school system etc... All good moves. Looking forward to increase in ECE Funding in budget.
  • Their policies prior to being elected.
  • At least they are potentially going to review childcare funding rates.

Those who did not have confidence in the government said things such as:

  • I haven't seen any evidence of any improvement for ECE since Labour came into government. A lot of talk, but nothing else.
  • This is still little focus on the ECE sector, no support and lack of interest.
  • We are the forgotten sector of education. They throw us an old bone as a token and expect us to be grateful for it.
  • They are talking as if all businesses are raking in the profits, which may be true for very large corporations but not small single centre owners. I am worried that they are going to lump us all together.
  • To get to the right direction we need to be on par with others in the sector, we need to not be forgotten.
  • We need our teachers to be registered, I agree, but we can’t afford to pay them a wage that is sufficient for the amount of work that they achieve.
  • Our stay at home parents are getting less and less choice as more and more centres, kindergartens included go to longer and longer hours.
  • They are heading in the wrong directions. The ECE sector is booming as the government has been placing too much emphasis on parents returning to work and not valuing parents as the first and best educators of their children. By continuing to put a massive emphasis on having 100% “qualified” staff, this is where the nation is failing our children. Parents are already fully qualified and having more time with your child means you know your child and what their passions are and are easily able to grow on these yourselves.
  • Too many cowboys. The Ministry need to be held accountable for lack judgement and best practice when issuing service licenses.
  • We still get thrown scraps from the main table, not even recognised as teachers, not enough qualified teachers to fill roles, the pay rate is way too low, I had a student who I trained through to being qualified and registered, who left because she was given $21.00 as a starting rate, she left to sell shoes for $25.00  hour! Ratios? You all know what the evidence shows here but still we use terrible minimum ratios that don’t provide any sort of quality. Webinars, really? - to bring out a new curriculum, very cheap, not at all impressed. That’s just a few issues.
  • Government needs to regulate the number of centre's opening. For example Tuakau has a population of approximately 4500 and has 7 and soon to be 8 ECE centres which all have vacancies.
  • Because they want to put ECE into the box of large group teaching and learning as much as possible. We need to get back to smaller numbers for children to receive individual programmes and care.
  • Home-based educators are classed as self-employed. A self-employed person is expected to save for their own sick days, holidays, taxes, stat days etc and on top of that is your general day to day living costs.  All other ECE providers centres etc are paid a wage/salary so these things are taken care of and they can take the time when needed... more funding needs to come our way.
  • I hate seeing the stress on under-2s in centres they seem sad most of them and some stuck there for long hours.
  • Way too much paper work and not being brave enough to make tough decisions. They are also not looking far enough.
  • Too many corporates with owners with no ECE qualifications making large profits while teachers and children are in large group sizes and over stressed.
  • The sector is too diverse. It may sound far-fetched but the only solution is to have the government manage all of ECE. At the same time, supporting different philosophical approaches based on community demand.

And those who couldn’t say gave reasons that included: 

  • Too soon to tell if money will be enough to fix.
  • From what little I know my thoughts are that the government should be setting higher standards for ECE centres and then providing funding for those interested in getting the education to meet the standards.
  • I don't think they know themselves what direction they would like to take things.
  • Because they say one thing, don’t commit and change their minds.
  • The current government is supposed to clear the mess made by the previous government swiftly. Somehow, this is not happening.
  • Because other than talking about a strategic plan, no moves have been made.
  • Have not seen enough changes in the right direction yet.
  • They haven't shown yet WHAT they are doing except to set up a task force.
  • They are saying the right thing, but without action it is meaningless.
  • I felt we were headed in the wrong direction, now that there has been a change of government I am hopeful but haven't seen any policies yet that we are heading back in the right direction.

 

2.  The outlook for the next 12 months

A net 13 percent of people say it will get worse for early childhood education over the next 12 months.  This is significantly fewer than in 2014 and 2013 when a net 56% and 46% thought things would worsen for the sector.

Some say it is going to get better for ECE, but more see no change at least not for the next 12 months.

There is less pessimism and people are generally more hopeful and optimistic.  

 

TABLE 2. Whether things are expected to get better or worse for the Early Childhood Education sector over the next 12 months (percentage of respondents)

 

Better

Worse

Net people who say it will get worse

Stay the Same

Total

 

%

%

%

%

%

April 24 –  May 1, 2018

23

36

13

41

100

May 4 – May 11, 2014

7

63

56

30

100

May 5 – May 11, 2013

10

56

46

34

100

 

Comments by people who expected things to improve covered a wide number of reasons, including:

  • Labour historically prioritises education.
  • Change of govt. It's got to be better than the track National was going down.
  • With a PM having a child while in her post, this will put ECE in the forefront of her mind I hope!
  • More funding and more emphasis on transition to school.
  • I am hopeful the government will listen.
  • The results of the review will be out by November and may result in training for home-based educators and hopefully some better legislation around the regulatory framework.
  • With an intended Strategic Plan to be developed transparency should be reintroduced into ECE. This should improve our ECE long term planning.
  • They realise major underfunding has occurred.
  • Govt wants to change how ECE teachers are perceived - there seems to be a goal of making it viewed as a professional career, not just a babysitting job anyone can do.
  • 100 percent qualified staff will help.
  • I'm being optimistic on this one as I hope the new/current government will stay true to their pre-election promises regarding ECE.
  • More support for parent lead groups like Playcentre.
  • More to do with the developments in the education council (especially with the focus on leadership and tangata whenua) than the changes in govt.
  • At least they are listening to us about how bad the system is.
  • Promised to address poverty.
  • I hope the new government is going to take a serious look at the group size and lack of qualified staff.

As to why many thought that things would remain the same for early childhood education over the next 12 months, the reasons included:

  • We are still implementing initiatives from the previous government with the same budget and time restraints.
  • If funding dramatically increases, for my centre it means improved dividends for the shareholders. I doubt it will filter down to staff as the for-profit centres have been pushing the wages down, hence not many qualified teachers.
  • I can’t see things changing in the short term. There has to be some vigorous changes to policy fast to action any major changes.
  • The Prime Minister’s new baby will be looked after by her husband so no childcare is needed so she won’t find it any different so that is why they will keep it the same.
  • It is going to take time for years of underfunding to be resolved, and also time to upskill the workforce.
  • We have good teachers/educators but they are doing their best despite decreasing financial support.
  • I can’t see the government changing anything to be honest - they really don’t seem to care. One would HOPE it would get better but I’m honestly not holding my breath in the last 15years of me working in ECE I haven’t seen it get better.         
  • I would like to hope it will get better but that will take investing in teachers, increasing funding and re-thinking the current system. One of the main concerns I have is that anyone can buy an early childhood centre and that they are perceived as good money-makers by people who don't actually understand ECE.
  • I think that they need to keep their mind open to the options of different childcare, kindy, homebased etc and value all areas.
  • Good things take time. I am hopeful that the new government will be able to see the value and strengths of Playcentre in the country.
  • Because Labour have spent their money elsewhere.
  • Where is the funding? Where is anything for ECE?          

And those who did not think things would improve gave reasons such as:

  • Labour shortages will become extreme. I don't expect any significant grant increases.
  • Parents are still not involved. Poverty levels are still high. Education levels are still low.
  • This push for qualified teachers might come without corresponding support and or funding for provisionally certified teachers. The cost of mentoring programmes to small centres has significantly impacted budget to such an extent that you end up asking what needs to be taken away from provisions for teachers and or children to do so.  The good faith and willingness of teachers and mentors to do things in their own time and at a compromise in terms of payment is being pushed too far.          
  • More and more centres being built - complaints are not dealt with - cutting corners to be competitive.
  • Changes need to be made -- change always brings a period of chaos.
  • ECE teachers are not paid enough. The amount of work involved from assessment, documentations etc. Then there is registration in sane. No wonder a lot of teachers are leaving the sector.
  • Demand for ECE services has precedence over quality.
  • Increase in costs. Shortage of teachers. Inability to put prices up. Increase in competition.  Kindergartens turning into childcare centres.  
  • Government keep granting new licenses and funding remains the same.
  • The set-up of the Ministry of Education – it takes such a long time to decide anything.
  • Worse if the government starts dictating to parents what they should do.
  • If we have to wait until outcomes of the Review to have funding increased, it will remain a tough time in ECE.
  • Playcentre and community ECE eroded by the increasing need for parents to work, and underfunding by government of Playcentre.
  • Force parents to choose new expensive child care options.
  • We have more children with special needs in our centres. They need individual help which they are not getting.
  • As long as the government continues to fund private centres who put the money toward their own personal property (land and building) the quality of ECE is going to drop.
  • The present government isn’t pro private education.
  • The review of ECE with few practitioners on the review panel.
  • At the moment we are sitting in limbo waiting to see what will happen, not knowing what the outcome will be and with very little say in what happens.
  • Many Au Pairs and homebased educators will not be able to gain level 3 qualifications because of time constraints or cost.

 

3. The top priorities for ECE for the forthcoming Budget

People were asked to choose from a list of Labour and other party pre-election and current promises for ECE and some of the main concerns and interests in the early childhood sector, what they thought the top five priorities for government spending in the forthcoming government should be.

The rows with each item choice were randomised for each respondent.  When selecting the top five priorities people were asked to rate these from 1 to 5 with 1 being the first priority and 5 the fifth priority.  A weighted average score for each item was calculated. 

As shown in Table 3 below more people rated an increase in subsidies to early childhood services as a priority and more gave it a high priority rating. The next four top priorities were: 

  • Improve adult-child ratios in centres.
  • 100% qualified teachers in teacher-led services.
  • Reduce group sizes in teacher-led centres.
  • Bring all early childhood teachers under the State Sector Act, along with giving Playcentre better support.

While some people voted for the Government to prioritise funding the establishment of new early childhood centres the weighted score shows that overall other things were considered to be of higher priority.

 

TABLE 3.  Average weighted scores for choices of possible priorities for ECE for the forthcoming Budget.

Possible priorities

Weighted average score

Increase subsidies to early childhood services

2.13

Improve adult-child ratios in centres

2.51

100% qualified teachers in teacher-led services

2.63

Reduce group sizes in teacher-led early childhood centres

2.91

Bring all early childhood teachers under the State Sector Act as kindergarten teachers are currently

3.03

Better support Playcentre as an option for parents, whanau and children

3.04

Purchase early childhood services to be part of the public education system

3.19

Improve the monitoring of early childhood service standards for child safety and quality

3.29

Take management of kindergartens under kindergarten associations into the public education system

3.39

Increase WINZ subsidy to parents and families

3.57

Increase the qualification level of home-based educators

3.68

Better support Kohanga Reo as an option for parents, whanau and children

3.89

Establish new early childhood services

4.77

 

The Participants in this survey

The survey collector was set at a maximum of 555 responses and closed when this number was reached. Table 1 below shows the range and number of people who participated in the survey.  

TABLE 4.  The participants - who they were (the main hat they had on when answering the questions)

 

Percentage

Number

Parent, guardian, or family member

9.91%

55

Teacher, home-based educator, kaiako, manager, supervisor, or worker at an early childhood service or services

63.42%

352

Employer, owner, part-owner or operator of an ECE service or group

17.66%

98

Teacher educator, researcher, tertiary education or professional development provider

5.23%

29

Early intervention, learning support, family support, or parenting programme facilitator

0.54%

3

Student teacher or person in-training for an early childhood qualification

1.98%

11

Committee or board member of an early childhood service/s

1.26%

7

 

Answered

555


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