ECES feel the pinch

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By KARO­LINE TUCKEY

Many early child­hood cen­tres in Porirua are feel­ing the im­pact of Gov­ern­ment fund­ing cuts, with some say­ing they have been forced to pass the costs on to par­ents.

Ed­u­ca­tion union the New Zealand Ed­u­ca­tional In­sti­tute says re­duc­tions to sub­si­dies for child­care cen­tres with a high level of qual­i­fied staffing have hit cen­tres and par­ents hard, with more than 2000 ECE cen­tres af­fected na­tion­wide since the cuts came into ef­fect in Fe­bru­ary.

Welling­ton Kinder­gartens, which runs 64 kinder­gartens from Welling­ton to Levin – 21 in the Kapi-Mana area – says it has lost $3 mil­lion for the 2011-12 fi­nan­cial year, or $48,000 per kinder­garten, be­cause of the cut.

The change from a Gov­ern­ment­man­dated tar­get of 100 per cent qual­i­fied staff, to a fund­ing cap at 80 per cent qual­i­fied staff ‘‘ was a dis­ap­point­ing and dis­turb­ing change in direc­tion’’, the Welling­ton Kinder­garten board chair­woman Ca­role Olmedo said, in a letter to par­ents.

‘‘The un­for­tu­nate re­al­ity is that these changes are hav­ing a huge im­pact on us and we need to make some dif­fi­cult choices to en­sure qual­ity is pre­served in our kinder­gartens.’’

The or­gan­i­sa­tion was en­cour­ag­ing par­ents to pay a do­na­tion each term to help them re­tain teach­ers, and had sup­plied par­ents with con­tact de­tails for lo­cal MPs, and en­cour­aged them to voice their con­cerns.

Porirua First Five ECE cen­tre su­per­vi­sor Jenni Ma­son agreed the fund­ing changes had been a blow.

‘‘ We’ve been quite badly af­fected . . . we lost about $20,000 in fund­ing,’’ she said.

‘‘We’ve had to put our fees up three times, a to­tal of $7 a day per child. Over a week, for fam­i­lies that’s a $35 a week in­crease.’’

The cen­tre has also had to cut back a part-time po­si­tion it kept for ECE stu­dents, and in­crease the num­ber of chil­dren on its roll.

Mrs Ma­son said fam­i­lies had been very un­der­stand­ing of the fee rises.

But on top of the in­crease in GST in Oc­to­ber, and ris­ing liv­ing ex­penses, fam­i­lies were feel­ing the cost.

‘‘Par­ents are work­ing longer days, do­ing a nine or 10-hour day, so the chil­dren are here for a longer time,’’ Mrs Ma­son said.

‘‘We charge a daily rate, so the par­ents are sav­ing money, but it’s a lot harder for the chil­dren – that’s a very, very long day.

‘‘We used to have a huge group of full­time chil­dren, now we only have three and a large group of part-time chil­dren.’’

While many ECE cen­tres would do their best to find ways to meet high stan­dards of care and ed­u­ca­tion, re­duc­tions in the qual­ity of early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion would have far­reach­ing ef­fects, Mrs Ma­son said.

‘‘It’s go­ing to have a flow-on ef­fect right through­out the com­mu­nity, and ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem,’’ she said.

‘‘For ev­ery dol­lar spent on early child­hood you’re sav­ing $15 later on in the child’s life.

‘‘It just seems ludicrous that we are cut­ting the fund­ing to such a vi­tal part of the com­mu­nity.

‘‘The gov­ern­ment gave ev­ery­body tax cuts last year and then turned around and took them back from young fam­i­lies with the other hand.

‘‘They do not ap­pear to be do­ing much to help the mid­dle classes or lower class fam­i­lies.’’

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