Participation rates in early childhood education are increasing but are still below targets for 2011/2012, according to the Ministry of Education’s Annual Report.
The report states that a total of 95 percent of children were enrolled in an ECE service, just below the target of 95.6%. Of Maori children, 90.9% were enrolled compared to a target of 92% and 86.8% of Pasifika children were enrolled compared to a target of 87.7%.
More than $30 million has been spent on targeted participation initiatives designed to enrol children in low participation areas and $28 million on early intervention services to support children with special education needs. The report notes that early intervention services continue to be in high demand.
There has been steady growth in the number of enrolments, particularly in childcare centre (education and care) and home-based enrolments. As of July 2011, there were 5,258 ECE services of which 4439 were licensed and 819 were licence-exempt or certified playgroups.
The average number of hours a child spends at an ECE service has risen from 14 hours in 2001 to 20 hours in 2011, but now the data suggests the rate of increase may be slowing down or levelling off for both young and older children.
More than 950 ECE services were re-licensed to meet the new 2008 regulations. As many as 350 services have taken financial advantage of the changes to regulations which raised maximum licence numbers to 150 children.
The report also states that decisions about changes to the ECE funding system are expected to be made early next year. Other recommendations made as a result of the Government’s Early Childhood Education Taskforce and resulting Ministry of Education advisory groups are expected to be implemented by June 2013. Two advisory groups had made recommendations on improving the quality of ECE across the sector and specifically improving the quality for under-2s. (Note that at the time of the 2008 General Election the National Party promised then to reduce the under-2s ratio from 1:5 to 1:4 and ensure that from 2012 sessions for under-2s in teacher-led early childhood centres were staffed by at least 50% qualified teachers).