The National Government releases its latest budget on Thursday (May 24th), however there is not likely to be much extra funding for early childhood education above that which has already been announced.
There is probably little point in speculating what might or might not be in the 2012 Government Budget. For early childcare and education, the Budget is unlikely to indicate much more spending on top of what has already been signalled. All we possibly may see is the actual numbers and more detail.
Pre Budget statements have indicated that the Budget will include $80 million over four years for early childhood education and a guaranteed childcare assistance payment to help solo parents get back to work. This money has been reprioritised from the welfare sector and is designed to increase the number of solo parents working rather than claiming benefits.
The biggest challenge for the ECE sector is how to make the most of this money and how to respond to the needs of single parents who may have different childcare needs to two-parent families. For example, they may do shift work or may only need childcare for a few hours a week while they are in training or education. The focus on getting single parents, usually mothers back to work may also benefit ECE services looking to expand their home-based care business, as many single mothers may be interested in the flexibility of earning while caring for their own child and each other's children.
The Government has also signalled that it intends to target certain areas to increase participation in ECE, focusing on Maori, Pasifika and low-income families. Education Minister Hekia Parata has said early childhood education is important for children to get an educational head-start and the focus on increasing participation in certain areas is part of the Government’s wider target of having 98% of all children participating in ECE by 2016.
The rest of the Education Budget is likely to focus on school age children with the minister signalling that the focus will be on raising teacher standards and changing pay structures to reflect performance as well as changing class sizes and raising school children’s achievement. A further $60 million over the next four years has already been allocated to boost new teacher and leadership training.
While the Budget may not offer all the funding that the ECE sector expects, it is likely to offer a clearer picture of where the funding for targeting low participation areas will come from and how this will affect funding for other areas of ECE.
Arwen Hann will cover the Budget release for ChildForum and full information and analysis will be available on the ChildForum website.