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


Staff Pay and Workforce Retention: Results from the 2020 Early Childhood Education National Survey - ABOUT THE SURVEY

Article Index


Wages and a shortage of qualified teachers are major issues facing the early childhood sector. However, there is a lack of available data on the pay of teaching staff across different groups in the sector. There is also a lack of data on teachers’ employment decision-making and intentions. Because of this we know little about whether pay levels are a determining factor in teacher decisions to stay in their job and the interaction between wages and workforce retention.

To learn what the going rates for teaching staff are, we could ask employers. But if we want to know what teachers find they are paid, then we need to ask them. Therefore, at the start of the 2020 school year (late January – February), 4,021 teaching staff in early childhood education (ECE) were surveyed about their work and wages. Of the 4,021 respondents, 4,002 were paid staff and their data is the focus of this report.

A call for participants went out on email to services across NZ. The request may or may not have been passed on by service administrators and employers, so a call for participants was also placed in ECE teacher social media groups. Participants were drawn from across the sector – from diverse centres (e.g. early intervention, Montessori, Rudolf Steiner, bilingual, language immersion centres, teen parent units, etc.), parent-led services, private and community/ public services, and included home-based co-ordinators and visiting teachers.

Participation in the survey was voluntary. There was no obligation to do the survey and no financial or other incentive was offered. To provide assurance on the representativeness of the sample, participants were asked who they worked for. Mega service providers were represented (e.g. BestStart, Evolve, Kindergarten Associations, Provincial, and Kindercare), along with medium-sized through to single service operations. Participation by paid staff from licensed Te Kōhanga Reo was low and therefore their data is reported only as part of all ECE teaching staff and not separately identified.

The survey took place well after the latest re-negotiation of the Kindergarten Teachers, Head Teachers and Senior Teachers’ Collective Employment Agreement (KTCA) resulting in pay increases for kindergarten teachers. The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the increase in the minimum rate for attestation of teacher wages in teacher-led centres will not be known until another survey of teaching staff is done.

However, the Minister of Education said that it was not compulsory that employers spend the 2020 Budget funding increase on the costs of staff on higher than minimum wages. Many early childhood teachers will therefore likely see no increase in wages as a result of the 2020 Budget.  Only teacher-led centres that choose to claim a higher funding rate for employing qualified and certificated teachers must now pay all their certificated teachers at least $23.97 an hour. Therefore, centres paying their certificated teachers less than $23.97 will/should now pay their teachers at least $23.97 an hour.

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