National is focused on lifting the quality of early childhood education, National’s Early Childhood Education spokesperson Nicola Willis says.
“It’s important our children receive quality education in their early years as this sets them up for primary school onwards. Most early childhood education (ECE) services do a great job, however there is evidence that some are not meeting the quality standards parents expect.
“National is looking to implement a programme of unannounced spot-checks of centres to ensure they are meeting the required standards. Where ECE services are found to be breaking the rules, National proposes that they be put on notice and parents informed. If problems aren’t fixed quickly, services will risk losing their license to operate.
“We want parents to feel confident that when they leave their child in a Government licensed early childhood service, they know they will be well looked after. These proposals are designed to give them that assurance.
“National knows good teachers are at the heart of quality ECE. We're concerned by the growing shortage of qualified early childhood teachers and the issues around pay and workload.
“We’re looking to address this by creating scholarships and voluntary bonding measures to attract more people into early childhood teaching, and we propose additional funding for teachers in the first two years after graduating to assist with getting full registration.
“We have also listened to parents and teachers concerned about the long wait time for early intervention support for children with additional needs and we propose a new approach, which includes a 30 day wait limit for a first-time assessment.
“National supports high quality ECE that allows families to choose the care and education arrangements that suit their circumstances and support their children to thrive.
“We are committed to lifting the quality of ECE across the country and welcome feedback on the proposals in our discussion document.”
The Ministry of Education must ensure children enrolled at Manurewa West Kindergarten are safe and, if necessary, suspend the Kindergarten from caring for children while investigations are underway, National’s Early Childhood Education spokesperson Nicola Willis says.
“The incident involving Masua Tusa is incredibly disturbing. A young, vulnerable child has had an unexplained accident, leading to awful injuries, medical care doesn’t seem to have been sought and parents have not been pro-actively informed.
“The Ministry of Education must assure parents that Manurewa West Kindergarten is a safe place for them to be sending their children.
“The Ministry should conduct a thorough investigation into this matter including working with WorkSafe and the NZ Police if necessary. If that investigation requires an interim suspension of the Kindergarten’s service, then so be it.
“Parents don’t expect this to happen in a Government licensed and monitored early childhood education (ECE) service.
“All Mums and Dads rely on the Government to ensure laws and regulations are being enforced in licensed ECE services. We expect good systems and processes are in place to keep our children safe. It appears massive failures have occurred here.
“All families with children at Manurewa West Kindergarten deserve to know whether their children are safe in its care.
“Most ECE teachers and services do an incredible job and parents are confident about the education and care their children receive. The Government must act decisively when incidents of this nature occur so that parents can be assured their confidence is well-placed.
“The key priority right now is the safety of children, and the Government must act as openly and transparently as possible so that parents have the information they need to ensure their children are safe.”
The Minister should make the MMR vaccine available to early childhood teachers so that our most vulnerable children are protected from the risks of measles, National’s Early Childhood Education spokesperson Nicola Willis says.
“Children under five are the priority for receiving the measles vaccine across the country because they’re the most vulnerable to the risks of the disease.
“Many ECE teachers will belong to the cohort of adults who are significantly less likely to have received an MMR booster when they were children, because these weren’t introduced until the 1990s.
“Measles combines being both serious and being highly infectious. Some young children who may be immuno-compromised and attending early childhood facilities could be put at risk if their teachers aren’t protected.
“There’s no sense in vaccinating only under-fives and not the adults who come into contact with young children every day.
“Julie Anne Genter hasn’t acted fast enough on measles and has been dismissive of the both the scale of the outbreaks and the scale of the vaccine shortage.
“But vaccinating early childhood teachers would provide even more safeguards for the hundreds of thousands of under-fives who attend early childhood facilities every day.
“This Government also scrapped health targets which, under National, resulted in improved vaccination rates that safeguarded Kiwis’ health.
“Now there’s an opportunity to do the right thing and ensure that the health of the most susceptible Kiwi kids doesn’t continue to be put at risk.”
The Government must act to address a severe shortage of early childhood education teachers before centres are forced to further compromise on quality, National’s spokesperson for Early Childhood Education Nicola Willis says.
“I have surveyed early childhood teachers and managers to measure the severity of reported shortages of early childhood educators, and the results are compelling.
“More than 2000 people across New Zealand responded to my survey, with 94 per cent reporting a shortage of early childhood teachers.
“More than a third reported spending more than six months looking for an appropriate qualified early childhood teacher to hire, with more than 260 respondents looking for more than a year. More than two-thirds of respondents say they’ve been forced to hire less qualified staff than they would have liked.
“35 per cent of respondents have had to reduce the number of educators in their centre as a result of teacher shortages. This means kids are missing out on the attention and support they deserve and their parents expect.
“The problems are most acute in Auckland where 79 per cent say they’ve been forced to hire an unqualified teacher.
“I’ve been told about increasing reliance on relievers, rapid turnover of staff, stressed teachers working over-time to cover gaps and children not getting the consistent care and relationships they need. It’s no wonder the Ministry of Education has seen a jump in complaints from parents.
“Those surveyed made many suggestions for immediate and long-term action to support high quality early childhood education, and have made it clear they are sick of being treated as the ‘poor cousins’ of education.
“I want to thank everyone who took the time to make their voice heard - your work matters and deserves recognition. I’m calling on Chris Hipkins to sit down with me so I can share all of your feedback.
“Labour came into office promising a 100 per cent qualified early childhood education workforce and lower teacher: student ratios. It has failed to deliver on those promises and is instead overseeing a brewing crisis.
“The Minister has stalled on this issue for long-enough. He must stop playing the political blame-game and take action.”
The survey results can be found here.
Reports of underhanded tactics used to force a political deal on Wellington’s transport plans show they were gutted for the sake of the Labour-Greens relationship, Wellington-based National MP Nicola Willis says.
“Wellingtonians will be rightly shocked by reports of manipulative tactics used against city councillors to secure their support for the Government’s preferred Let’s Get Wellington Moving plan.
“First we have Green MP Julie Anne Genter using her Ministerial role to write secret letters pushing her personal political demands about what should be in and out of the plan. Now we learn that local representatives were led to believe that same Minister had veto-rights over the final Let’s Get Wellington Moving plan.
“Councillors are charged with advocating for the people they represent, but it appears they felt they had no choice but to accept the package as dictated by Genter and Transport Minister Phil Twyford.
“This reveals an appalling politicisation of what was billed as a collaborative and consultative process between central and local government. It calls into question the legitimacy of the $6.4 billion package and the sequencing of projects within it.
“It shows the transport priorities that were decided for Wellington were more about coalition politics than what the people really wanted.
“It’s also clear the Government has been misleading the public by claiming the Let’s Get Wellington Moving plans have universal support.
“We’ve now heard councillors at both WCC and GWRC vent frustrations, including Labour’s regional councillor Daran Ponter who said: ‘the things that have arrived on Wellingtonians' plate … are certainly not the things that they identified as projects they wanted’.
“Wellingtonians deserve better when it comes to their transport future.”
An official investigation has been launched into Julie Anne Genter’s refusal to release her secret Let’s Get Wellington Moving letter, National MPs Chris Bishop and Nicola Willis say.
“The Associate Transport Minister’s excuses for keeping her letter hidden from the public have worn thin to the point where the Chief Ombudsman is now investigating her conduct,” Mr Bishop says.
“I gave Julie Anne Genter the opportunity to come clean and read the first few paragraphs of her letter in Parliament today, but she doubled-down and thumbed her nose at the public.
“It’s extraordinary that she continues to argue her letter to Transport Minister Phil Twyford, which we believe convinced him to push back construction of Wellington’s second Mt Victoria Tunnel for at least a decade, isn’t in the public interest.
“It took repeated questions and some stern comments from the Speaker of the House for her to even admit it was written on her ministerial letterhead. Getting openness and transparency from this Government is like getting blood out of a stone.”
Ms Willis says she is pleased the Chief Ombudsman has listened to her complaint and will investigate whether the letter can continue to be withheld under the Official Information Act.
“I’m confident the Chief Ombudsman will agree with what Chris Bishop and I have been saying for weeks now; that Wellingtonians deserve to know how much Julie Anne Genter was responsible for pushing back plans for a second Mt Victoria Tunnel to beyond 2030.
“She now claims that because she is a Green MP she isn’t subject to the public disclosure requirements normally faced by Ministers. She is wrong. Her confusion shows an appalling lack of understanding of the public accountability that comes with her Ministerial warrant.
National’s spokesperson for Early Childhood Education Nicola Willis has today launched a survey to reveal the extent of teacher shortages in early childhood education services.
“I regularly visit Early Childhood Education (ECE) centres and talk with teachers, owners and parents about the issues in the sector. The number one concern I’m faced with is the dire and growing shortage of qualified teachers to staff our ECE services.
“This is putting pressure on ECE centres with some experiencing problems including struggling to replace staff, being forced to rely on relievers, growing teacher to child ratios, and employing fewer qualified staff.
“This survey is designed to provide objective data to back-up the picture those in the sector can already see. We are facing major teacher shortages in ECE. We need the Government to front-up to this challenge, with short and long-term measures.
“I know many Kiwis are concerned about the impact this has on the quality of education their children are receiving, with recent reports showing a large increase in the number of complaints the Ministry of Education is receiving about ECE centres.
“When I asked Education Minister Chris Hipkins about this shortage, he has said the Ministry of Education does not have a clear picture of the ECE workforce.
“The Government campaigned on increasing funding for a 100 per cent qualified workforce and lower teacher to child ratios. It is failing to deliver on these promises and instead has overseen the opposite, with centres struggling more than ever to find teachers.
“Parents want to be sure their children are getting the best education they can, especially in those early developmental years. The Government should be taking workforce shortages in ECE seriously.
“I encourage all involved in ECE in some way to take the survey and to share your views on how these challenges can be addressed. The more responses the better.
“Mr Hipkins cannot ignore the ECE sector and its challenges. We will ensure those working in ECE can make their voices heard.”
The survey can be found HERE.
The unwillingness of Wellington’s regional councillors to show accountability for the region’s bumbling bus network means it’s time for a Crown Observer to step in, National MPs Chris Bishop and Nicola Willis say.
“The briefing Greater Wellington Regional Council gave to the Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee today did nothing to quell concerns about continuing network failures,” Mr Bishop says.
“It is time for Transport Minister Phil Tywford to reconsider appointing a Crown Observer to oversee the network repairs and get the level of service back to where it needs to be.
“Acting regional council chairperson Barbara Donaldson appeared blind to what is going on around her, telling the committee that ‘Wellington’s bus service is in pretty good shape’.
“This is despite the council’s own data showing 37 bus services are being cancelled each day and more than 10 per cent of Wellington buses are running late. Buses in outer suburbs are also failing to meet on-time targets.
Ms Willis says a Crown Observer would have the power to help the council resolve these problems, to monitor progress and to make recommendations to the Government about further action that may be needed.
“I regularly hear stories from people waiting in the rain for buses that are delayed, overcrowded, or just haven’t shown up. I have had Wellingtonians tell me they have purchased cars for the first time in their lives due to the current unreliability problems.
“The continued buck-passing between regional councillors and city councillors is growing tiresome, with Cr Donaldson saying ‘bureaucracy moves slowly’. That’s not good enough.
“The regional council continues to show it is unable to solve these problems itself. Mr Twyford cannot continue to look the other way while bus users are left in the lurch.
“If this Government wants New Zealanders to become more reliant on public transport then it needs to ensure services are up to scratch. So far, it is failing to do this in Wellington.”
The Government has failed to deliver on the Prime Minister’s promise to ensure an additional 1750 children would receive early intervention support, National’s Early Childhood Education spokesperson Nicola Willis says.
“In May 2018 the Prime Minister announced additional funding for the Early Intervention Service and made a specific commitment that this would ‘see an extra 1750 children get support over the next year’. But only 626 additional children received support from the early intervention service, fewer than half what the Prime Minister promised.
“As a result children in every region of New Zealand are waiting longer for the help they need, with data showing waiting times are now significantly longer than they were in National’s final year of office.
“In the Bay of Plenty region for example families are now waiting an average of 123 days for support, up from 74 days. In some cases the wait times are even worse, with one family in the Waikato forced to wait a staggering 462 days to receive early intervention support for their child.
“This will be incredibly disappointing for families who know their children need extra specialist help but are waiting months and months for it. The Prime Minister says she has made children her priority, but her Government is letting these children down.
“The Early Intervention Service provides specialist support for young children who have a developmental or learning delay, a disability, a communication difficulty or a behaviour difficulty that affects their ability to participate and learn at home or in early childhood education.
“Under National, the average wait time for early intervention support had been trending downwards. We understood more significant change was needed and had kicked off an update of learning support which included testing a new model to make accessing learning support simpler and quicker.
“The earlier we get the right support to children with additional needs the more successful they can be. I’m sure many families and educators had their hopes raised by the Prime Minister’s announcement last year. Sadly, they have been let down.
“What matters to children and parents is the services received not the promises made. Instead of making empty promises, the Government should get on with ensuring shorter wait times for families in need of early intervention services.”
New Zealanders with life-shortening conditions are being left in limbo for longer about access to their KiwiSaver funds because the Government hasn’t taken advantage of cross-party support to fix the problem, National List MP Nicola Willis says.
“The majority of New Zealanders can expect to retire at 65 and draw their pension for many years. But current law doesn’t recognise Kiwis with a chronic illness or health conditions that means they’re unlikely to live until 65. This effectively prevents some KiwiSavers from accessing the funds they have built-up over years of hard work.
“I’m really disappointed that Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi has refused to adopt my Member’s Bill, which would provide a mechanism to permit someone with a life-shortening illness or condition to apply for compassionate consideration to make withdrawals prior to age 65.
“This shouldn’t be a party-political issue. My KiwiSaver (Compassionate Consideration) Amendment Bill was published in December and could have been adopted as the template, allowing a select committee to get stuck in and given this issue much needed momentum.
“Instead, the Minister commissioned advisers to report back on the issue by the end of February. Nothing came of that and I again wrote to him in March suggesting we work together to fix this. He ignored my approaches and now says any solution will be late this year.
“The Minister still has scope to adopt my Bill as Government legislation, allowing Parliament to get to work on changing the law.
“I’m gutted for people like Tim Fairhall, a lovely man who has worked hard to accumulate KiwiSaver funds. Tim wants to access that money before his condition, Down Syndrome, prevents him from doing so.
“The proposed mechanism in my Bill would be consistent with KiwiSaver’s purpose of encouraging the development of a savings habit while allowing New Zealanders to provide for their own well-being and financial independence.
“I committed to Tim and his family that I would work across the House to get progress on this issue as soon as possible. I urge the Minister to show the same spirit and pick up my Bill.”