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


Qualified highly skilled early childhood teachers could soon be paid as low as $15.25 an hour while teacher-child ratios are also under threat

drums noise


Early childhood teaching looks set to become akin to kitchen hand and rest home caregiver work as a result of the Minister of Education’s directed review of the education funding system.

The higher rates of funding to early childhood services to reflect the cost of employing staff who are certificated teachers are likely to go when the funding system is changed to a standard per child amount aligned to the (to be specified) achievement of the child at each level of the education curriculum (with the early childhood curriculum to be changed by the Ministry of Education).

Currently to be eligible for a higher funding rate services must attest that all employed teachers are paid at least at the minimum level set out by the Ministry of Education. For example, ECE services receiving the higher funding rate must pay teachers who have a 3-year teaching degree a salary of at least $44,817 or $21.54 an hour, or for a 4-year teaching degree at least $46,137 or $22.18 an hour. Services have discretion over how much of the funding is used to pay teachers, so they can keep the profit or use the funding left over to pay for other things such as staff professional development and resources.

But the Ministry of Education is expected to drop the requirement for attestation of teacher wages/salaries when the new funding system comes in or it may do this sooner. When this happens the majority of NZ’s early childhood teachers will no longer need to be paid at least at a level that reflects their qualification and there would be nothing stopping employers from putting current staff onto new employment contracts and paying new staff at or closer to the adult minimum wage rate of $15.25 an hour (before tax) under employment law.

The exception will be kindergarten teachers (as their service is covered by the Kindergarten Teachers’ Agreement) and early childhood teachers whose service is party to a collective agreement with the union. Kindergarten teachers make up around 12 per cent of ECE teachers while the largest segment of the teaching workforce is concentrated in private education and care services.

Listed below are the reasons to drop the higher funding rates according to the Minister of Education and funding review papers.

  1. As delivery costs (salaries) increase it puts fiscal pressure on the Government to increase funding to ECE services
  2. The government’s goal of increasing the proportion of qualified teachers in ECE services has largely been met. Currently over 95% of teacher-led services receive funding for having at least 80% certified teachers.
  3. The funding rule for calculating the proportion of qualified staff working with children effectively ‘tie staff to the floor’, hampering the ability of ECE services to be creative and engage staff in doing other things.

A Ministry of Education paper titled ‘Stock-take of funding system for early childhood education” states that “market based systems are traditionally believed to result in more efficient resource allocation due to competitive market forces” among other things.

A spokesperson for ChildForum Dr Sarah Alexander says that if the salary attestation requirement goes along with the higher rates of funding to ECE services it will be difficult for any ECE provider that is not in the public sector or kindergarten to afford to pay teachers at more than the minimum adult wage owing to the competitive market forces that are now a defining characteristic of the sector.

“We could easily see a return to ECE staff being paid no more than the minimum adult wage, increasing use of volunteers and people on subsidised work schemes instead of qualified teachers, and New Zealand ECE could drop to 3rd world status".

“Is this what we want for our ECE sector, for our children and for our country,” asks Dr Alexander. 


Additional information

The Funding Handbook section 3-B-2 Teacher-led education and care services states “A ‘certificated teacher’ is a holder of a current practising certificate that has been issued by the Education Council, or a letter from the Education Council advising that certification has been approved and that the practising certificate will be mailed within four to six weeks. This includes teachers whose practising certificates are marked ‘full’, ‘provisional’ or ‘subject to confirmation’.”

“Since 1948 Government has paid kindergarten teacher salaries and set their conditions of service. The Government negotiates salaries on their behalf via a collective agreement. The result of these negotiations is seen in higher subsidy rates for kindergartens. In 2013, Kindergarten teachers made up 12.6% of ECE teachers” (Ministry of Education Stock-take of Funding System, 2015).

The funding review proposes that there will be no change in the present overall proportion of funding allocated to different types of ECE provision.

See the findings of a survey of teachers about current issues in the workplace. Twelve percent of teachers reported their centre was consistently operating with ratios below the legal minimum requirement. A further 36% teachers stated that staffing was at the legal minimum only, for example “the age group of our children are 3yrs and 4yrs, 40 children per session - teacher ratio is 1 teacher: 10 children”. Teachers’ comments suggest a possible lack of enforcement by the Ministry of Education and a lack of knowledge by ECE providers/managers of the rules concerning who counts as a teacher and where the teacher needs to be counted within ratio.


Update as at 9 October 2016

Thank you all for your comments.  Our survey quickly reached the maximum limit set of 1,000 responses.  

A paper with analysis of the feedback is now available. The approximately 9 page paper is titled "Winds of Change May Slam the Employment of Certificated Teachers" and can be viewed at this link: 


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