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Early Childhood Education Comes Out as A Winner in Budget 2011: Or Does It?

© ChildForum

The government has allocated an additional $550 million to early childhood education over the coming four years.   This is to be spent mostly:

  • in programmes to target Maori, Pasifika and low-income family children. The early childhood equity fund is to be boosted.  Also, services will receive additional funding to set up in priority communities.  
  • in extending the Home Interaction Programme for Parents and Youngsters (HIPPY)  ($20.3 million to be allocated over four years)
  • in meeting the rising cost of 20 Hours ECE and Early Childhood Subsidy as children spend longer in ECE and costs rise
  • for the development of an "information system" to give better data about children’s participation and ECE service system performance ($30.8 million is to be set aside for this).

Media report that it sounds likely National Standards in the compulsory school education sector will be extended to under-fives in early childhood education as part of a performance system.  

The early childhood teacher workforce may not attract as many older people in the future and those who need to borrow to fund their study will struggle more.  For many student teachers early childhood teaching is a choice they make after raising children or being involved in other careers and student loan changes will affect them.  Student loan restrictions are being introduced for people aged 55 and over to tuition fees only. The entitlement for part-time full-year students to borrow for course-related costs is to be removed.

Family income will be affected for those receiving assistance through Working for Families.  Changes announced in the Budget include small adjustments to the abatement threshold and abatement rate, and a gradual alignment of the over-16 rate with the 13-to-15-year-old rate.  Families higher up the Working for Families scale will receive less than they currently do now, or will no longer qualify.

Helping children and parenting to get off to a good start  will be boosted by an additional $54.5m for prenatal care for maternity services over four years to improve safety and quality for babies and to fund extra WellChild services, with a particular focus on first time mothers.

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