ECE cuts a ‘back­wards step’

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - By KRIS DANDO

Govern­ment cuts to early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion ( ECE) are ‘‘ a huge back­wards step’’ and are likely to have wide-rang­ing ef­fects in Porirua and Tawa, says Mana MP Kris Faafoi.

He spent much of the past week tour­ing kin­der­gartens and child­care cen­tres in the elec­torate, hear­ing from teach­ers and par­ents about the ECE cuts.

Mr Faafoi said the $400 mil­lion de­crease in fund­ing – to the cen­tres where 80 per cent or more of the teach­ers are qual­i­fied – could see fee rises of up to $80 a week for the nearly 3000 chil­dren in Mana.

ECE cen­tres also face re­duc­tions in staff devel­op­ment, for­go­ing main­te­nance to build­ings, the buy­ing of re­sources, and re­duc­ing open­ing hours. Labour will make restor­ing the cuts a ‘‘pri­or­ity’’, he said.

‘‘It’s a sad day, ei­ther di­rectly or in­di­rectly, the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion avail­able to chil­dren will suf­fer.

‘‘In Mana, many of the cen­tres will be chas­ing their par­ents for more money and I’m be­ing told par­ents will pull their chil­dren out.

‘‘Our [New Zealand’s] child­care sec­tor is world-class but this is a huge back­wards step.’’

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Anne Tol­ley has said the govern­ment is spend­ing more than ever on ECE ($1.4 bil­lion in 2010/ 11), sub­si­dis­ing cen­tres at an av­er­age of $7600 a child a year, cre­at­ing ex­tra places for new chil­dren in at-risk com- mu­ni­ties and ex­tend­ing the 20 hours for ECE. Cuts have come about be­cause of ‘‘spi­ralling costs’’ un­der Labour gov­ern­ments.

Na­tional List MP Hekia Parata said more ef­fec­tive spend­ing in tough eco­nomic times will ben­e­fit in the long run.

As­cot Park Kinder­garten head teacher Diane Lawrence de­scribes it as one of the biggest crises she has wit­nessed in 30 years in the in­dus­try.

‘‘We’ve fought hard to get ahead and we want our chil­dren to have the best but this is a blow.

‘‘We’re lucky to have amaz­ing fundrais­ers but we still have a limited pool of money, and this is go­ing to hit our abil­ity to buy new re­sources and carry out main­ten- ance. There are rum­blings about cut­ting hours and staff.’’

Bronwyn Pul­lan from Bronwyn’s Place in Ti­tahi Bay, which has 49 chil­dren at­tend­ing, said she sent out letters ad­vis­ing par­ents of fee in­creases days af­ter the ECE cuts came in. She couldn’t rule out mak­ing other changes to her busi­ness to make up for the loss of fund­ing.

‘‘I don’t think they [the fee rises] have sunk in yet but I know this is go­ing to have a huge im­pact on fam­i­lies in this area. For me to be able to keep do­ing the things that are spe­cific to this cen­tre, like go­ing out for our walks, it means prices have to go up. I un­der­stand Na­tional want­ing to bal­ance the books but I wish there was some other way they could do it.’’

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