ECE cuts a ‘backwards step’
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.’’