National welcomes the focus on lifting the quality of Early Learning in the Draft Strategic Plan released today, National’s Early Childhood Education Spokesperson Nicola Willis says.

“National believes all children should have access to high-quality early childhood education. Parents need confidence that early learning services are doing a good job for their children. We support the goals in this plan of improving standards and lifting quality.

“However the detail does matter and we will be studying this draft strategic plan closely.

“A key question is who will be paying for this?  Are parents expected to pay?

“The Government must assure parents that these proposals won’t result in big fee hikes. Many families are already struggling with the growing cost of living. They will be nervous about moves that could increase early childhood fees. 

“The Government needs to guarantee this plan won’t result in increased fees for families.  Many parents are already struggling to pay for early learning and it would be terrible if this plan back-fired by reducing children’s participation in preschool education. 

“A second question is where are the teachers coming from?

“National supports increasing the number of qualified teachers working in ECE centres.  However we encourage the Government to be pragmatic about how this achieved. In a time of serious teacher shortages, it’s simply unrealistic to expect every person working in an early learning centre to have a mandated teaching qualification. 

There are around 9,600 non-qualified educators working in early childhood education today. 

“A third question is will the Government do more to crack-down on poorly performing services?

“National want to see monitoring of centres to include spot-checks, better information for parents, and more urgent action to close centres that are putting children at risk.

“National will be listening to educators and parents for their views on this plan.  We support increasing the quality of early childhood education but Government policy changes must not reduce the choices, diversity and affordability of early learning for Kiwi families.”

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