The Government has broken its promises for early childhood education (ECE) in its first Budget leaving parents and educators to ask what priority it really places on early learning, National’s Early Childhood Education Spokesperson Nicola Willis says.
“Labour’s number one manifesto commitment to ECE was to bring in special funding for services employing 100 per cent qualified teachers. This commitment was costed in Labour’s fiscal plan at $279 million starting from 1 July, yet it was nowhere to be seen in the Budget.
“Labour also committed to improving group size and teacher:child ratios. That promise has also been forgotten.
“Parents and educators will welcome the announcement of a 1.6 per cent boost to ECE subsidies but they should read the fine print – the increase amounts to an average of $1.30 per child per week in the next financial year. It’s highly unlikely anyone will see their fees reduce as a result.
“Treasury documents confirm that extra Budget funding for ECE is mostly due to ‘volume growth driven mainly by increased immigration, higher than expected birth rates and the success of initiatives to improve awareness and engagement of families in ECE services’.
“The National Government grew funding for ECE in this way every year it was in office, so that by 2017 overall funding had doubled to $1.8 billion. It’s great that National’s efforts to promote participation in ECE is continuing to bear fruit.
“But Labour promised a lot more than business-as-usual growth funding in its manifesto and in the NZEI’s ‘Have a Heart Pledge’ that Chris Hipkins and his colleagues signed up to.
“This is about priorities. Mr Hipkins managed to find $2.8 billion for tertiary education in his first 100 days as Minister, but when it comes to ECE he’s crying poor.
“Mr Hipkins is happy to talk about the importance of early learning, but has completely failed to put Budget money where his mouth is.
“National is committed to ensuring kids get the best possible start in life with quality ECE. We will continue to hold the Government to account on its broken promises.”