Early Childhood Education cuts “create opportunity”

Yesterday the Education Select Committee had one hour to question the Minister of Education Anne Tolley on the Budget Estimates for Education.

The responses the Minister gave on the cuts to Early Childhood Education fit into the “black is really white” category.

She said that the cuts to the centres were an opportunity for those businesses and that it was all about choices.

Labour MP Sue Moroney and I pressed her on whose choices and Sue exposed the real cost of the cuts which will increase fees and will be passed on to the parents. But the Minister blithely talked about how the child care centres won’t have to pass on the costs to parents and how they have nine months to think up some other way to survive without hurting poorer families.

It is already apparent that families will be paying up to $60.00 more per child per week and that some will have to withdraw their children. The Minister said that was about people prioritising. She really believes poor people have the same economic choices as richer people.

She talked a lot about the targeting of Maori and Pacific Island families who have low participation rates and need quality childcare which is all good until you see that quality childcare training cuts are a core part of the Budget impact.

Our ‘Mind the Gap‘ proposal and many social commentators since the Budget have identified that we have one of the fastest growing gaps between the rich and poor in the OECD.

There is absolutely no dispute that early childhood is a crucial time for learning but the Government makes no apology for these cuts. They have three lines of argument when challenging on virtually anything including ECE: “It’s a recession, the business model will work, and everyone has a choice.”

Tell that to the kids who miss out!

16 Comments Posted

  1. maureen, though I agree with you that Playcentre can and dose provide excellent learning outcomes, these cannot be considered as equivalents to those of Kindy.

    The Playcentre philosophy is one of Freeplay where a child’s agency is central to their learning in that they determine at all times what play to engage in. Kindy, however, is based on a mix of freeplay and structured learning in that children are required to participate in Mat-time and other group activities. School is of course mostly structured learning with the only freeplay being at lunchtime and with few props provided. So, in terms of transition to school Playcentre cannot provide what Kindy can.

    The fact that the lack of freeplay at school stunts children’s learning is another matter, but this is the model we have to work with.

  2. Re cuts to teacher-led parts of the early education system (admittedly the largest proportion of the sector).

    Children can still receive an excellent early education without paid professionally-qualified teachers present, but it involves parents offering education in supported community groups such as Playcentres. (I’m sure this applies also to Kohanga Reo.)

    Playcentres offer part time education sessions which have learning outcomes at least as good as the best of teacher-led services, but the catch is that parents must be present (to help run the sessions) at least one half day per week.

    So the government can’t have it both ways. To get good quality in ECE you either must pay trained teachers if the parents are at work, etc. Or you must enable parents to be hand-on in raising their children. However, a parent work-force supported by budget-basement child-care will diminish education quality.

  3. You seem to all be missing the major points. ECE educators are some of the most hardest talented workers I know of. They are dedicated and committed to supporting a new generation of confident competent citizens of Aotearoa. You obviously have no awareness of the value and vital importance early education can have on a persons cognitive development. Learning how to learn and sense of self worth is not measured by reading, counting or going to the toilet or even by inforcing or enabling opportunities for homework. It is about empowerment and achieving success. And for educators to be undervalued and undermined is abusive!

  4. stephensmikm-Read Te Whāriki, the Ministry of Education’s early childhood curriculum, then come back when you are fully informed about earlychildhood teaching. You obviously don’t have children of your own.

  5. Agreed samiuela.
    Homework for young children should be done at home and should work. That is, further the child’s education, however you define that. Helping an older sibling to make a kite, a younger brother or sister to decode a picture book, a parent to cook a meal, a pet to negotiate a tricky crossing, a plant to escape the smothering of weeds,

  6. Greenfly,

    I meant forcing; there is nothing wrong with enabling. I have seen parents screaming at their five year old children outside school because the child is having difficulty with the reading books they take home. This is not going to enable or help at all (in fact it is likely to have the opposite effect). I have seen milder things with three and four year old children at kindergarten.

    I agree with stepehnsmikm’s comment on not giving homework to children under 9 or 10; in my mind they’re better off playing after school than sitting down with sheets of homework (and they’ll probably learn a whole lot more from just playing).

  7. Oh I wouldn’t give homework to anyone under 9 actually – it’s always done half arsed by the parents until they finally say you’re old enough to do it yourself but if you made it as a part of the current 5-18 free education from the age of 4 that could be quite useful both for schools and for children

  8. Sprout,

    Stephensmikm’s views about early childhood education are actually quite common, even amongst parents with children. I’ve seen many parents at my children’s kindergarten and primary school who try and push their children into learning how to read and write at a very young age. They would happily have their children start something equivalent to primary school at the age of 3 or 4, and have the expectation that their young children will bring home significant quantities of formal homework (sheets of spelling, maths etc) every night.

    A trained early childhood educator who tells such parents that forcing their 3 and 4 year olds to start reading and writing is not necessarily the best idea is unlikely to be particularly valued.

  9. stephensmikm-Read Te Whāriki, the Ministry of Education’s early childhood curriculum, then come back when you are fully informed about earlychildhood teaching. You obviously don’t have children of your own. The minister is destoying something that was actually properly recognized by Trevor Mallard and the huge increase in funding, that National claims needs cutting back, barely got it to the level of most OECD countries. We spend .6 % of our GDP 1% is the average.

  10. though it isn’t about reading/writing — more letter recognition and number form – for instance I was taught money viz the batman icecreams and lollies at the dairy in ol’ days of actual 5c …

  11. well, there is a reason why there are baby books and number blocks etc… though of course my background of going to kindy , and 2 different preschools simultaneously probably skews my views a little..

  12. Stephensmikm,

    When I went to school, it was normal not to have any knowledge of numbers and letters (well I guess I knew that numbers and letters existed, but I certainly couldn’t read them); that was the point of going to school – to learn how to read, write etc. The expectation that children should be able to read and write a little before they start school seems to be more recent.

    I don’t expect my own children to read or write before they go to school; I think they learn a lot more through playing (which may include learning letters and numbers, or may not, according to the child’s individual preferences and learning style). So far it hasn’t appeared to have any negative impact on their literacy or numeracy skills once they start school.

  13. I feel inclined towards just starting compulsory education at 4 rather than deal with this problem of means testing and of how many hours, yes a few parents might complain about the loss of time within their own environment but I feel it may be better since children are increasingly arriving at Primary school without knowledge of Numbers or letters or even what a toilet is!


    Catherine; it seem to be one of their most sinister of Orwellian contradictions.

    Who is Anne Tolley fooling?

    It is certainly not me!!

    Cuts to early childhood education will result in children missing out in opportunities later on in life, thereby creating an underclass and widening the gap between rich and poor.

    It is so obvious!!

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