Early childhood teachers are furious with the higher fee charges for certification that the new Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand (ECANZ) has put out for ‘consultation’.
Chief executive of ChildForum Dr Sarah Alexander says teachers are reacting strongly to the news that the current cost for teacher certification, renewable every three years will increase from $220.80 to $510.00.
The council said yesterday that it wanted to give teachers every opportunity to have their say about the changes it was proposing to make to the fee structure, including those for practising certificates.
“We have prepared a detailed consultation document to help inform this conversation with the profession, and we’ve worked closely with Deloitte to be sure our financial modelling is robust," council chief executive Dr Graham Stoop said.
ECANZ is funded by teachers’ fees. The fees teachers pay to the council have remained the same since 2010, and did not reflect the services it provided to the profession, Dr Stoop said.
However, Dr Alexander says many early childhood teachers simply do not have this kind of money and it will therefore be coming out of essential family living expenses such as their children’s food and clothes for them to remain working as certificated teachers.
Early childhood teachers are the lowest paid out of all teachers in the education system and a uniform rate of charges by ECANZ for teachers unrelated to pay and affordability does not make sense.
“Early childhood teachers do not earn massive amounts of money. They are highly vulnerable in terms of pay and conditions of work compared with teachers in schools and in the public education sector,” says Dr Alexander.
In November last year ChildForum informed early childhood teachers and services that ECANZ had been put on notice by Education Minister Hekia Parata to become a self-sufficient business operation and instructed to raise fees on teachers practising certificates and find other sources of revenue.
“So we knew that this was coming, but it is the size of the increases that teachers and the early childhood sector cannot accept.”
The increased ECANZ fees are seen by teachers as not bringing them any added benefits and they cannot see what they get for their money.
ECANZ is the only body that provides teacher certification and oversees matters of teacher discipline and conduct.
Dr Alexander says another professional body for teachers should be considered, so teachers have a choice for certification. The monopoly status of ECANZ means that teachers as a group and individually cannot vote with their feet.
ECANZ is looking at linking the fees to inflation but teacher wages do not increase with inflation.
The fee increases will have a negative impact on the number of qualified early childhood teachers who register with it and who remain working in the sector.
On Facebook, one teacher commented that her daughter at university earns more an hour in her part-time job and said that the increased charges made it even harder to stay in the early childhood profession:
“As more and more unqualified teachers are hired (by centres) to slash the wages bill to increase profit, ECANZ wants those of us remaining to be on a par with other professional groups, it’s ludicrous, are we professionals or are we not, something has to give!”
Already, fully qualified early childhood teachers who are not able to complete the requirements for certification with ECANZ owing to reasons such as taking time off to have children or working in home-based ECE or a different part of the education sector, face a fee of about $4,000 and four months of additional study for a teacher refresher course if they want to stay in.
In the commercial early childhood sector, teachers not covered by a union agreement can be paid as little as $20.00 or less an hour. A minimum rate of $22 an hour is specified for teachers with a four-year degree, regardless of experience level and responsibilities, by the Ministry of Education if centres are claiming a higher rate of funding.
A minority of employers cover the costs of certification and renewal but this is usually part of the total wage package and not a gift, and teachers can be “caught” if employers ask for this to be paid back if they move to another centre or leave within the bonded period, Dr Alexander says.