Angst over proposed extra kindy hour
Several Upper Harbour kindergartens will soon be open for an extra hour a day as part of an Auckland-wide change which has been criticised by some parents.
Most centres belonging to the Auckland Kindergarten Association (AKA) are proposed to have their opening hours extended from a six to seven-hour day by the end of 2018.
Preparation for the change will affect Upper Harbour’s Colwill, Whenuapai and Hobsonville kindergartens from term four.
However, parents are worried about how the hours increase will affect attendance charges and the kindergarten model.
At present, children who attend early childhood education (ECE) are subsidised by the Ministry of Education to receive 20 free hours a week, up to six hours a day.
With the new AKA model of a proposed two-day, seven-hour per day minimum enrolment, parents would need to pay for the additional seventh hour of the kindergarten day. Extra hours are currently charged at $5 per hour.
AKA kindergartens would also remain open throughout school holidays, except during the Christmas and New Year period.
A parent, who prefers not to be named, said the concern about an extra hour per day not simply about ‘‘an additional hour per day in isolation’’.
Due to the proposed minimum enrolment, parents would now have no way of using their 20 free subsidised hours without paying, the parent said. Three additional hours at $15 per week would come to $735 per year. Even if children did not attend kindergarten for the full seven hours or during the holiday periods, it is proposed that they would be charged according to their enrolled hours.
AKA chief executive officer Tanya Harvey said increased hours was about meeting the community’s needs and to provide flexibility for families.
‘‘If parents are given the flexibility they need to make things work for their families, it’s going to be better for children.’’
Over a 20-year period, kindergartens had declined from around an 80 per cent to 12 per cent market share, and the changes were about ensuring a secure future for kindergartens, Harvey said.
She said children wouldn’t be obligated to attend during holidays as long as they were within the terms of attendance requirement, and if the changes went ahead, parents would not be charged during a six-month transition period.Feedback would also be gathered from each individual kindergarten community before changes were made.
Due to the proposed minimum enrolment, parents would now have no way of using their 20 free subsidised hours without paying.