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What is in the Draft Strategic Plan for Early Learning

risk takingBy Dr Sarah Alexander
© ChildForum

One year in government and the Education Minister now has a (draft) plan “He taonga te tamaiti” for the early childhood sector.

The plan might be all good but what actually happens and when depends on funding decisions of the government and are a matter for successive Budgets. 

There are no immediate plans concerning 20 Hours ECE to improve access to free ECE. 

There are no surprises in the draft, as it fully meets the expectations the Education Minister set out for the plan's writers plus it contains some education extra wishes. But there is one exception. There would appear to be a softening, or perhaps a back track on Minister Hipkin’s intentions to increase public involvement in the ownership of ECE services and review of the current market approach.

The priorities for the next three to four years are to:

  • Incentivise for 100% qualified teachers in teacher-led services.
  • Develop guidance on group size and environments (see guidance is available here)
  • Gazette the early childhood curriculum to increase its strength as a legal document
  • Prevent bad service operators from opening more services
  • Increase monitoring of service compliance with standards (something that ChildForum, teachers and service providers have been consistently calling for over the past 4 to 5 years)
  • Co-design appropriate funding models with Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust and the Playcentre Federation
  • Co-construct progress tools to support children’s learning and wellbeing
  • Improve professional learning and development
  • Provide goverance and management support for community-owned services
  • Support services to collaborate with other education services
  • Support robust internal evaluation to ensure ongoing improvement.

Regulating for 80% qualified teachers will not happen until 2022, providing Labour forms the next government, yet 97% of teacher-led services are already on the 80%+ qualified teacher funding band.  Why the delay?

A 100% qualified teacher funding band will be introduced in 2022 with the goal that 60% of teacher-led services will qualify for this funding incentive.

Services with an adult-child ratio for under-twos of 1:4 or better would get a higher level of funding to cover extra staff cost.  Minister Hipkins signalled in his paper to Cabinet a possiblity that this may also happen for services with an adult-child ratio of 1:5 for 2 year olds.

Uniformity/ consistency of teacher salaries and increased salaries across the board is stated as a goal - but the specifics on how this will be achieved are missing!

Early childhood service owners will need to prove there is a need for a new service in their area before being granted a licence to operate - this is something that the Ministry of Education could simply ask of new service providers to do now.

Children’s rights

In his paper to Cabinet, Minister Hipkins did not address whether the Strategic Plan supports the right of children to be cared for by their parents (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) and it appears it does not. It's main focus is on supporting and driving greater labour force participation by parents (namely mothers).

Gender

In his paper to Cabinet, Minister Hipkins focused on how the Plan would “improve the pay and working conditions of the early learning workforce (and) would therefore positively affect women. The Review of Home-based ECE also has proposals to improve educators’ pay, which would also positively affect women.” 

No gender implications are mentioned for men. No implications of the significant gender imbalance in the ECE teacher workforce are mentioned. No mention is made of how the Strategic Plan would result in improvements in gender equity. The government is not ignorant of the need for gender balance and of calls for action to be taken to improve gender equity.  

New Zealand governments continue to support women to take on men’s roles but do not show policy support for men to work with young children in ECE. It is still believed/ promoted that while women can do anything a man can do, men are hurting women’s opportunities if they do some things (namely early childood teaching) that women do.

The plan is open for consultation until March 15, 2019. 

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