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


Get the facts on the early childhood teacher shortage/ turnover in NZ


  1. Is it true as TVNZ reports that 'an expert', Peter Reynolds, says a survey found a third of centres can’t fill staff vacancies?
  2. How are centres doing when it comes to meeting legal requirements for qualified teachers?
  3. Is a lack of staff forcing services to close?
  4. Is teacher turnover higher than usual and if so in what parts of the sector is staff churn typically highest?   
  5. Are there obvious biases that restrict teacher supply, and if so what are these and what is being done to address the biases?

Let’s look at what facts are available to answer these questions


1. Is it true as TVNZ reports that an 'expert', Peter Reynolds, says a survey found a third of centres can’t fill staff vacancies?

No early childhood expert would ever recommend having fewer staff to children below the quality level and even below the minimum regulation standard. This is what Peter Reynolds, spokesperson for the business lobby group the Early Childhood Council recommended on the TVNZ Breakfast programme (1 Nov 2018)

The recommendation has come from a survey that identified a third of early childhood centres can't fill staffing vacancies. Though no survey report has been released by the ECC

Has any member of the media checked the ECC's survey report before reporting its claims? It would appear not. It looks like members of the media reporting on the ECC's survey and views have been taken in by the business lobby. 

In his press release Mr Reynolds says only that: “according to information from our membership, many childcare and education centres are carrying teaching vacancies for over 70 days, and some for longer.” 

The ECC does not represent the early childhood sector – how does the ECC know that a third of centres in the sector can’t fill vacancies? 

The ECC says it represents more than 1,000 centres so why does the ECC not state/ publish the names of its centres?  It is very strange.

Further informationGo to an opinion piece giving more details on what the ECC wants and why 


2. How are centres doing when it comes to meeting legal requirements for qualified teachers?

Centres are doing very well in meeting the minimum legal requirements for qualified teachers according to funding claims to the Ministry of Education. 

So where is the data to support the ECC business lobby groups claims that centres will close due to lack of staffing. Is there a crisis?  Whose crisis is it? Could it be that the ECC's real intent is to drive teacher wages down (thorough bringing in migrants from countries such as India) or to bring down the total wage bill of its centres (by reducing the need to employ staff to meet ratios)? 

Ninety-six percent of teacher-led education and care centres (sessional and all-day services) were funded for 80% or more qualified teachers in 2017. 

Only a very small proportion of centres had 79% or less qualified teachers. The legal minimum is 50% - so there is no staffing crisis if funding claim figures are anything to go by.

All but one kindergarten had 80% or more qualified teachers in 2017.

An outline of the qualified staffing requirements*
Kindergartens and other centres led by teachers must have a minimum of 50% staff (including person responsible) with a recognised qualification at all times.  The qualification requirement for staff other than the person responsible can include a primary teacher qualification. One member of staff can be counted as holding a recognised qualification if enrolled in a course of study that may result in being awarded a recognised qualification within 12 months (i.e. in their last final year of study). The Ministry of Education requires that centres hold evidence that they are meeting the 50% requirement. This includes:

  • the qualification documents that show teachers are qualified (or comparable to a NZ initial teacher education qualification as assessed by NZQA)
  • rosters that show when qualified teachers work
  • documents that show there is a working relationship, e.g. employment agreements or letters of appointment
  • a completed Verification of Final Year of Study form for up to one person in their final year of study permitted to be counted within the 50% requirement:
  • a completed early childhood education Qualified Teachers Attestation form if part-time teachers are employed and are working in two or more licensed early childhood education services

* This information comes from and the Ministry of Education website.


3. Is a lack of staff forcing services to close?

In 2016 and in 2017 the two most frequently cited reasons* for service closure was not enough children/ a declining roll or that the owner was retiring.  No services shut their doors due to inability to meet staffing requirements - lack of staffing.

*This information was provided to ChildForum by the Ministry of Education.

There is however a national labour shortage in NZ, affecting many industries and sectors including education, and this is likely to last a number years.  So centres will have to work harder to recruit teachers and not treat current staff as easily replaceable. 

See:  Tips for ECE services struggling to find staff on how to improve their teacher retention and recruitment 


4. Is teacher turnover higher than usual and if so in what parts of the sector is staff churn typically highest?  

Teacher turnover is a key indicator of the quality of early childhood care and education for children. 

The Ministry of Education used to collect data on teacher turnover but has recently stopped doing so. 

Such data would be useful for gaining an understanding of what is causing some centres to have difficulty finding staff to replace those who leave.

  • Are more teachers chucking in their permanent position and working as relievers instead because of poor employment conditions?
  • Has there been a higher than usual loss of teachers to the sector? 
  • Is the difficulty that some employers are now having in finding staff to fill vacancies a reflection of a growing workforce or other issues?

A summary of the ministry’s data on teacher turnover was published by ChildForum in 2013. Teacher turnover peaked at 26% in 2008 following the introduction of 20-Hours Free ECE funding and many part-day services changing to all-day hours and needing staff to match the longer hours.

Notice that the private sector has a higher staff turnover rate compared to the community-based sector and free kindergartens.    





Community-based centres




Privately-owned centres




Public kindergartens under
recognised kindergarten Assns








*Teacher turnover is calculated using the Statistics NZ method of calculating turnover:  Worker turnover rate = The ratio of the average of the total new staff and staff that have left, to the average of the total staff in the reference year and the previous year.

See also:

Report on bullying experienced in ECE workplaces

Teachers experiences of bullying

Injuries, mental and physical health problems experienced by ECE teachers

27% of 900 people in the early childhood sector would not endorse the quality of their service for children

Union membership does it make a difference? 
Compared with teachers who did not belong to the union, those who did had a much higher probability of:

  • Being well paid - according to their own perception of what this meant.
  • Having a greater number of hours of non-contact time per week.
  • Being given more days paid study or professional development leave.
  • Having the cost of first-aid training covered by their employer.
  • Working in a service where the adult-child ratios are at least at legal minimum (as opposed to below legal minimum).
  • Having a workload that they rate as 'fine" (not just "bearable" or alternatively "excessive").

How safe are early childhood workplaces?  

Teachers faced with bigger numbers of children in centres 

Profit-driven ECE able to flourish (2015 story)


5. Are there obvious biases that restrict teacher supply, and if so what are these and what is being done to address the biases?


New Zealand has a young early childhood education teaching workforce compared to most other countries in the OECD – more than one quarter of ECE teachers are 30 years old or younger.  One reason may be that younger and less experienced staff are less expensive to employ.  (See under point 4 above that working conditions such as bullying and low pay may also lead to teachers leaving their chosen profession early.) 

To date the Ministry of Education has ignored age and bias against older workers, as a workforce issue.


ECE service providers predominantly look to women for labour.  Our sector is not good at recruiting men  and there is no government or education policy support for this despite repeated requests.

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