ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary Education

ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary EducationLead advisor on early childhood care and education 
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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 - APPENDIX: INFORMATION ON SETTING PAY RATES

Article Index


There is no basic salary scale that is applicable across all types of publicly-funded early childhood services for qualified and certificated teachers and/or for untrained teaching staff. In 1985 a joint Departments of Education and Social Welfare paper on the transition of childcare to the education sector noted that to achieve quality childcare adequate working and employment conditions for staff had to be considered. This required “the development of a basic salary scale” for all staff and support for “negotiable conditions of employment”.

A 1987 survey of Christchurch teachers’ wages showed that early childhood teachers were the lowest paid (Department of Labour Statistics Division report). The average ordinary weekly wage per full-time early childhood teacher (including kindergarten, childcare and playcentre) was $261.21 as compared with $445.46 in the primary school system and $464.09 in the secondary school system. That survey was a long time ago and a lot has changed, including teachers in kindergarten gaining pay parity with school teachers.

From 1954 Kindergartens were part of the state sector along with primary and secondary schools. This changed in 1997 when Parliament passed legislation removing kindergarten associations from the State Sector Act, since kindergartens were owned by Free Kindergarten Associations and were not part of the state school sector. In March 2000, as part of the Employment Relations Bill introduced to Parliament, kindergarten teachers were included in the State Sector Act. Under a delegation from the State Services Commissioner the Secretary for Education is involved in negotiating a collective employment. Kindergartens are funded to provide pay parity, as per the collective agreement to all their qualified and certificated teaching staff, including those who are not union members.

In 2002 pay parity for teachers in kindergartens with teachers in primary schools was introduced. The Minister of Education stated that work would be done to extend pay parity to all ECE teachers working in publicly-funded services that were not kindergartens. But, pay parity has yet to be extended to all ECE teachers. Instead, the Ministry of Education asks teacher-led centres when making their funding claims, to attest to paying all their qualified and certificated teachers at least at a prescribed level of pay. The salary attestation rates were $45,491 ($21.87 an hour) for a certificated teacher with a teaching diploma or a 3-year teaching degree, and $46,832 ($22.51 an hour) for a certificated teacher with a bachelor’s degree along with a recognised ECE qualification or holding higher qualifications. The rates were taken from the Early Childhood Education Collective Agreement of Aotearoa New Zealand (ECECA: Dec 2018 – Sept 2019) between NZEI and a small number of early childhood centres.  Neither, the Government nor the Ministry of Education play any part in negotiating the ECECA. Kindergartens are not asked to attest that they are paying their staff at KTCA rates – they make the same attestation as all other teacher-led centres.

As part of Budget 2020 the Minister of Education announced that from 1 July 2020 the Ministry of Education would lift the minimum rate for salary attestation to $49,862 (or $23.97 an hour). The new attestation rate was set at the first salary step of the KTCA and the Unified Base Salary Scale for all trained teachers in state and state integrated schools. This came about for several reasons. NZEI had failed to renew its ECECA with employers. Pressure was on the government and the Ministry of Education to increase salary attestation rates. Kindergarten, primary and secondary teachers had already been awarded significant pay rises.

Whether the increase in the attestation rate will make a significant difference to the pay of up to 17,000 ECE teachers as heralded by the Minister of Education and in mainstream media, where “pay parity” was widely but incorrectly reported, will not be known until this Survey is done again. The increase gives pay parity only to those who hold the most basic qualification accepted by the Teaching Council and are beginner teachers in their first year of teaching. Services that do not claim funding for the employment of certificated teachers are not required by the ministry to pay their teachers at the attestation rate and may choose to pay less. The attestation rate does not apply to Home-based ECE (which is a teacher-led ECE service) and to parent-led services even though parent-led services can and do employ teaching staff.


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