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 - SUMMARY AND MAIN IMPLICATIONS

Article Index


There were teaching staff being paid less than the minimum adult wage. There were trained and certificated teachers being paid less than the minimum wage set by the Ministry of Education for salary attestation. On average every teacher worked an additional 4 hours unpaid per week, just to get the work done that was required of them. Key reasons included understaffing in their service resulting in needing to work when not paid, parents being late to collect their children, other staff needing support, and not getting enough non-contact time to do child assessments, etc. From these findings the following questions arise:

  • Should such illegal practices continue to be condoned by the Ministry? If not, then what steps will the ministry take in its role of shaping the direction for early childhood services providers?
  • What policies can government put in place to better protect teaching staff in publicly-funded ECE services against exploitation?

The average wage of teachers who work in pay parity funded kindergartens and those who work in another ECE service is roughly the same for their first year of teaching. But after the first year of teaching the difference in pay increases and grows. This finding tells us two things:

  • Any increase in the salary attestation rate affecting only those teachers paid the minimum or in their first year of teaching, such as that which was delivered by Budget 2020, would not bring ECE teachers any closer to pay parity.
  • Pay parity would be achieved if service providers were required to pay all their qualified and certificated teaching staff as per the KTCA salary scale or the Unified Base Salary Scale for Trained Teachers (which the KTCA is based on).

There are regional differences in teacher pay, with teachers in Auckland, Waikato and Wellington getting more an hour on average than teachers in other regions. There is also a sizeable difference of around $2.00 an hour in wages between private and community owned non-kindergarten ECE services. These results raise a possibility that:

  • In some regions service providers may be able to afford to pay their staff more.
  • Some privately-owned services may be able to afford to pay their staff more and this needs to be investigated further.

Staff retention is a major issue. Around four out of every ten teaching staff want to leave their job: 19% were looking for a new (better) job in ECE and a further 20% or one-fifth of all teachers were looking to leave the profession. The results show that improving pay would help to improve staff retention in non-kindergarten services and in the sector.

  • Pay parity would mean fewer staff will experience the stress of trying to cope when team members leave and when the service is left short-staffed, thereby influencing their choice to stay in their job instead of leave for a job that pays better and is less stressful.
  • Pay parity would result in a drop in the proportion of staff looking to leave the profession and would help to retain government investment in the training of these teachers.


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