By Dr Sarah Alexander
ChildForum Chief Executive
A letter just received from the Education Minister provides good news.
The funding incentive paid to ECE services employing more registered / certificated teachers is secure and services will not be able to drop wages/ salaries, at least while the National Party remains in government.
But private childcare industry interest group the Early Childhood Council (ECC) is hostile to higher funding rates available only to services that agree to pay qualified and certificated at least at levels set by the Ministry of Education.
“The owners, committee members and managers the ECC represents see no value in the teacher minimum wage rate attestation and want it removed”, says its lobbyist Peter Reynolds.
“Our view regarding the teacher wage rate attestation is not driven by where the rate is set, but by the expectation that government can dictate what a private organisation can and should pay its staff. There is no need for it, as the market dictates what is payable and what is acceptable. “
You may recall a quick survey with 1,000 responses published by ChildForum on 9 October which revealed that if the funding incentive were dropped (a loss of up to and around $3.00 or more per child per hour under the 20 hour and 30 hour subsidies depending on the funding rate a service is on), and there were strong indications that this change was in the wind, it would unwind much of what has been achieved in building up a qualified ECE workforce and increase risks for children's safety, etc. (Read more here)
It may have taken a while for Education Minister Hekia Parata to consider and respond to the ChildForum survey feedback and our letter to her and the Finance Minister but she has come out and confirmed the government’s ongoing commitment to the funding incentive.
The government will not change the funding rates – by this Ms Parata must mean funding bands (e.g. 0 – 24%, 25- 49%, 50 – 79% and 80%+) as she also indicated that the actual funding amount will however still be contested as part of the Government’s wider budget process.
As well as confirming that the funding incentive will continue to be offered, Ms Parata acknowledges the necessity of retaining the salary attestation requirement. Although she did not say it in so many words, the Minister shares the Ministry of Education’s concern that without salary attestation some services might not use the funding intended for this purpose and instead pay their qualified staff as low as little more than the legal minimum of the adult wage.
“The Government supports salary attestation as a means of ensuring that certificated teachers are recognised and rewarded for their qualifications”, Ms Parata said.
And that is not all …
The Minister has backed down on a previous statement that the staff hour count related to the funding incentive ties “staff to the floor hampering change and innovation”.
Ms Parata said “I support the staff hour count, which incentivises services to have qualified staff teaching children”.
This is a huge relief because otherwise as the survey feedback showed there would be greater risk to children's learning and to their safety, and to the teachers remaining on the floor, if teaching staff were able to work off the floor and be counted as being in ratio.
Since they are opposed to this, the Early Childhood Council has a choice to advise the services that pay it to represent their interests, not to claim the optional higher rates of funding for qualified and certificated teachers and the Ministry of Education could check its members' funding claims.
In the weekend’s paper lobbyist Mr Reynolds of the ECC criticised the government for not raising pay rates for teachers who do not work in kindergartens.
"All we can do is make life awkward for [the government] by making it very public, [particularly] when stupid decisions are made to raise pay rates for one part of the sector and not for another. What are the required minimum levels?”
Actually any early childhood service can pay its staff the same or higher than what kindergarten teachers get under their collective agreement - just as long as the service complies with the salary attestation requirement expected of it by the Ministry of Education in return for receiving the certificated teacher incentive funding.
The required minimum levels for the purpose of salary attestation by services claiming higher funding rates are not a secret and there have been recent increases. This information is publicly available on the Ministry of Education website and also available from ChildForum.
|QUALIFICATION||FROM 1 JULY 2015
|FROM 28 OCT 2015
|FROM 1 JULY 2016
|Q1 a Diploma of teaching holder||$33,934||$40,458||$40,863 or $19.64 hour|
|Q2 (e.g. a Diploma of teaching holder with 2/3 of a degree)||$36,543||$40,458||$40,863 or $19.64 hour|
|Q3 (e.g. a 3 year ECE teaching degree holder)||$44,373||$44,373||$44,817 or $21.54 hour|
|Q3+ (e.g. a 4 year Bachelor of Education degree holder)||$45,680||$45,680||$46,137 or $22.18|
The rates set by the ministry at which a teacher must at least be paid are drawn from the base rates of the Early Childhood Education Collective Agreement of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Early childhood teacher and a vocal advocate for better teacher pay and conditions, Hugo van Stratum says that the rate structure should be reviewed now that ChildForum has a written commitment from the Minister regarding salary attestation.
“The attestation rates are set at the lowest wage bands in the ECE Collective Agreement, as a minimum; some services will use this wrongly to not give pay increases”, said Mr van Stratum.
I can see that the Ministry of Education sees it as a force in keeping wages low. Some centre owners definitely do not go beyond and keep teachers on the basic minimum beginning teacher’s rate for their whole career”.
For example the salary attestation level at which a certificated teacher with a 3 year ECE teaching degree should at least be paid is $44,817 but if the same teacher is working at a centre that is under the ECE Collective Agreement and she/he has taught for 8 years then the salary rate is $66,304.
“We now can work on NZEI and the Ministry of Education to build a career path for ECE teachers, that is not just the starting rate based on qualification but reflects years of service as well.
Mr van Stratum also notes an issue in the way that the ministry takes a salary level and converts it to an hourly rate by using 52 weeks instead of by the actual weeks a teacher at a service has worked.