ECE cuts hurt kids & parents

Written By: - Date published: 11:16 am, October 3rd, 2010 - 25 comments
Categories: education - Tags: ,

Early childhood education is great stuff. Those first few years shape a child’s future more than any other. Getting into learning and into socialising early on leads to huge rewards later in life. For every dollar spent on ECE, society gets 13 back in benefits. It also allows parents to return to the workforce if they choose or need to so they can support their family.

That’s why National’s ECE cuts hurt so much. They’ve removed the additional funding for ECE centres with over 80% qualified teachers. This decision will affect nearly half of the country’s 4300 ECE centres (according to the minister, so probably low). Those centres are facing the choice: cut the quality of service or charge parents more.

Understandably, people dedicated to the education of our youngsters absolutely hate to cut the quality of the service they provide, so their first choice is to put up charges – but staffing cuts and higher teacher-child ratios are also on the cards.

We’re not talking small amounts here. The Sunday-Star Times reports that “26 out of 27 not-for-profit creches [in Christchurch] will lose between $12,000 and $105,000 each a year, with the average loss being $43,084”.

That’s covered by charging more:

“E Tipu E Rea creche in Aranui, Christchurch, plans to raise fees from $4.20 to $5.20 an hour to help cover a $35,000 funding loss”.

That adds up to another $30 per week per child. For low-income families, especially, that’s a real blow. And no ‘tax swap’ will cover it.

One single mother who works full-time (just like Paula Bennett wants) for $600 a week and has two kids in full-time ECE says:

“I will have to work an extra day, which would be a Saturday, or take them out [of childcare] and get government assistance.” … “They told us they want to see more people in work.”

National’s ECE cuts may force parents out of work and kids out of ECE, creating more beneficiaries and denying kids education all to save a relative pittance.

So, what’s the defence for this? Deborah Coddington tries to make one:

“That Government decided no one was fit to educate the under-5s unless they had a degree in early childhood education, thus writing off 99 per cent of all parents.

What a smack in the face for all of us who’ve read What-a-Mess every night, spent hours teaching littlies to tie shoelaces, played Incy-Wincy-Spider, and repeatedly sung Never Smile at a Crocodile to deter car-sickness.”

Which just shows that Coddington ought not be an ECE teacher because she clearly has no damn clue what is involved. She then shoots her own argument in the foot:

“But National shouldn’t just cut the budget to save money. According to Ross Penman, a former Early Childhood Council president, public investment in this sector, based only on the benefits to the child (and their later success) provides a return of $7 for every $1 invested.

And let’s not just talk economics. In terms of brain development, what happens in a child’s first five years is more important than any period after that. By the time children go to school, the brain is closing down unused circuits.”

Let’s face the facts. National is cutting this and other hugely valuable public services so it can free up money for more tax cuts for the rich in the future. It’s a crime not just from an educational stand-point but an economic one too. National is basically slashing investment in our future for pointless tax cuts now.

We’ll see the results in the decades to come. By which time John Key will be permanently retired to Hawaii.

25 comments on “ECE cuts hurt kids & parents ”

  1. Julie 1

    Thanks for writing about this Marty G, good to see it still getting coverage ad these cuts really start to bite. Such a short-sighted move by a narrow minded govt who seem to want to boil all education down to workforce training.

  2. ZeeBop 2

    They’re lobbiests and they’re angry. They are conservative, ultra cons, that want change NOW!, they will have no salt with any progressive policy, they want nothing changed – do nothing, but always their own anger will force their hand to push through three strikes, tax cuts for the wealthy, tax hikes for the poorest, crime levies, and if the old 1000 year Earthquake hits they will ignore all past precedent and hand themselves unlimited power.

    They are all things to all people, but none to nobody. They seek only power, and the opportunity to destroy in order to save conservatism. Welcome to 1984, newsspeak rules.

    You voted for them, the farmers voted for the people who stiff them at the border, the retired vote for them even as they leave a waste land of financial fraud stealing their retirement, the business person get shafted as they pay a risk premium on borrowing that’s due to the lack of confidence in the NZ economy – a specialisation of our political elite and all they have to do is run the economy badly and pocket the extra fees.

    An elite who live on a Sydneyside mansion.

    We need a business party that serves the National interests of the people of NZ, not themselves.

    National have destroy Democracy for me, when Democracy dies people rise up and take it back.

  3. BLiP 3

    I suppose National Ltd™ haven’t factored in the increase in child care costs when estimating how much better off parents are with the wonderful tax cuts.

    • Marty G 3.1

      nope. nor the acc levy increases.

      • BLiP 3.1.1

        Surprise me, why dontchya. Looks like parents will need to have at least $30 extra a week after the GST/ACC increase to come out close to even:

        E Tipu E Rea creche in Aranui, Christchurch, plans to raise fees from $4.20 to $5.20 an hour to help cover a $35,000 funding loss. Board of trustees president Kylie Jones said most parents worked fulltime and paid for 25 to 30 hours childcare a week, which would add up to $30 a week to their expenses.

        Thanks National Ltd™ – I’m lovin’ it.

  4. You’re begging the question of whether ECE is actually improved by requiring 100% of staff to be qualified. Unless there’s some compelling evidence that 80% of staff qualified does actually mean a lower quality of service, these “cuts” are simply reversing an expensive and wasteful political decision by the previous govt.

    • Colonial Viper 4.1


      All we have to go on with National’s decision is their say so. *They* are the ones who should be providing us with evidence that they have made the correct move to justify *their* call on this.

      *Looks around* Nope none yet.

    • felix 4.2

      Jeez, it’s not often you see someone use the phrase “begging the question” correctly. It’s such a rare occurrence that it actually looks wrong to me at first glance 🙂

    • anarcho 4.3

      The damage is done by using unqualified staff as ‘nappy changers, feeders and sleepers’ despite contemporary research (Pikler/Gerber etc) showing that these caregiving moments are the critical areas of building a secure emotional base for children to engage with learning. Remember the coritsol /stress hysteria last year? Qualified staff equals knowledgeable, competent staff who are one step up from being just ‘good with children’.

      Take that arguement to any sector…

    • *They* are the ones who should be providing us with evidence that they have made the correct move to justify *their* call on this.

      Not really. Labour changed it from 80% to 100%, not to solve any obvious problem with ECE but to give the relevant professional association a boost. If the incoming govt doesn’t have the same tender feelings for that professional association, it’s not obliged to keep throwing taxpayers’ cash into helping them out. Returning the situation to the earlier status quo makes sense, given that there was no actual problem with that status quo and it was cheaper for both parents and taxpayers.

      The damage is done by using unqualified staff as ‘nappy changers, feeders and sleepers’ despite contemporary research (Pikler/Gerber etc) showing that these caregiving moments are the critical areas of building a secure emotional base for children to engage with learning.

      People who are seriously concerned about that should really reconsider whether childcare is right for them – if those caregiving moments are so vital, hadn’t you, as the parent, better be providing them yourself? No-one else cares about your kid the way you do, no matter what piece of paper they can wave at you. Further, there’s no evidence you need a tertiary education to “build a secure emotional base for children to engage with learning.” Tertiary ed providers can’t help you with that.

      • Colonial Viper 4.4.1

        Not really. Labour changed it from 80% to 100%, not to solve any obvious problem with ECE but to give the relevant professional association a boost.

        Oh, so now you’re saying National can do whatever it wants for whatever reasons it wants, without reference to rhyme or reason. (Or evidence).

        In fact in this case, with some made up reasons you happened to release out of thin air. Care to point instead to a statement by the relevant National Minister, or should I just accept your good word?

        • Psycho Milt

          …so now you’re saying National can do whatever it wants for whatever reasons it wants…

          I can’t decide whether that’s taking the piss, or just very poor reading comprehension. Let’s try it as simply as possible:

          The current govt is discontinuing financial incentives brought in by the previous govt. They don’t have to come up with any justification for it beyond the fact they don’t think the incentives were money well spent. If you do think the incentives were worthwhile, tell us why: what problem were they solving? What evidence is there that they did solve it?

          Get it? The onus is not on the Minister to justify ending these incentives, it’s on those who want to keep them to justify the incentives’ existence.

          • Colonial Viper

            Get it? The onus is not on the Minister to justify ending these incentives, it’s on those who want to keep them to justify the incentives’ existence.

            Oh, I see. You’re saying that the Minister asked the ECE sector to come up with justifications and evidence, gave provider associations and other stakeholders the time needed to put a decent case together, gave them a fair, comprehensive hearing, and only then made the decision to cut funding?

            And here I mistakenly thought ECE was simply slashed without any of that due process and consultation happening because NAT don’t give a **** about the evidence and had already decided from the outset the result they wanted.

            • jcuknz

              Really it is a question to if you believe the evidence presented by the previous government contains any merit …as one who worked his complete and moderately successful life without anything more than school cert , and saw numerous gormless twits who had spent time at varsity etc, I’m not convinced of the need for 100% trade certification in this situation and many others.
              as said above it is an insult to the natural motherhood and educational capabilities of the average woman.

      • anarcho 4.4.2

        “People who are seriously concerned about that should really reconsider whether childcare is right for them – if those caregiving moments are so vital, hadn’t you, as the parent, better be providing them yourself?”

        Do you think people really have a choice considering the mean wage, the percentage of income required to service a mortgage? The luxury of a stay-at-home Mum is sadly for the robber-class only these day.

        “Further, there’s no evidence you need a tertiary education to “build a secure emotional base for children to engage with learning.” Tertiary ed providers can’t help you with that.”

        Um, yes that’s where I discovered the rationale and the ‘how-to’. You should talk to some old-school teachers and see how the absence of quality education can really fuck things up 🙂

  5. Julie 5

    PM said: Labour changed it from 80% to 100%, not to solve any obvious problem with ECE but to give the relevant professional association a boost.

    Me: where is your evidence of this Milt? I have never heard anyone claim this before.

    • Personal opinion, based on conversations with non-qualified ECE workers at my own kids’ centre before Labour brought in the 100% incentive, and on the lack of any other compelling reason for the incentive to exist. If I’m wrong, there presumably existed some serious problem with quality of care in centres with only 80% qualified staff that Labour was trying to resolve – can anyone outline exactly what that serious problem was, and how financial incentives for 100% qualified staff fixed it?

      • felix 5.1.1

        Genuine question: Do you think the same rationale applies to primary and secondary schools?

        Should any school be required to employ only qualified teachers?

        • Psycho Milt

          I don’t believe the same rationale applies. Compulsory education begins at 5, and education should be carried out by qualified teachers (although, even there we make exceptions for home schoolers). Education is not compulsory for children under 5, therefore there’s an assumption that children under 5 may be given daytime care by people without an educational qualification (eg, their parents).

          I was certainly pleased that the childcare centre I sent my kids to was teaching them things, but it wasn’t the main reason for sending them there. I can’t say the same for their schools.

  6. Quoth the Raven 6

    ECE is now big business. We saw immense growth in for profit ECE under Labour. What used to be small informal provision has metastasised into big business operations with large chains springing up like MacDonalds’ all over the country. Labour pushed ECE into the formal capitalised market. Their supporters who continually decry “capitalism” (whatever it may mean to them) don’t see the irony nor do they stop to question the dogma of professionalism.

  7. Fabregas4 7

    These cuts link in to … National’s Standards and in particular the need to assess 5 and 6 year olds against them. My understanding is that:
    (1) Many kids come to school not ready to learn straight away.
    (2) Kids without formal ECE are less likely to be ready to learn.
    (3) Kids from Kindergartens are more likely to be ready to learn then those from ECE Centres.
    (4) National’s Standards are set at a very high level for 5 & 6 Year Olds.
    (5) The Minster is appalled that teachers will tell parents that their children are not meeting National Standards.
    (6) There will be a lot of appalling moments for the Minster over the next few months as end of Year reporting takes place.
    (7) Very few of the children who don’t meet National’s Standards will be behind expected levels by Year 5/6.
    (8) National’s Standards will do little good things and lots of bad things.

    Anti-Spam – impacts (some are known, some are unknown, some are encouraged some are ignored) .

  8. Nick C 8

    “For every dollar spent on ECE, society gets 13 back in benefits”

    Can you provide some evidence to back up this figure? Later on in the article Ross Penman claims its $7 return.

  9. 9

    Before wading into the argument, Conddington should perhaps have developed a little more understanding of the issues. Take this question for example:

    “Are these union delegates proud of their discourtesy? And since one of their squabbles with the minister is about standards, can they please answer this question?
    Why is it that at primary level national standards just won’t do at all, but at secondary level national standards – NCEA – are great? Is there a magic switch which is flicked?”

    Long or short answer Deborah? Lets try a short one. NCEA replaced School certificate etc which either passed or failed students. Rather than recording what students don’t know, NCEA looks to record what children can actually do – record there strengths in the subjects they have strength in. It is a ‘child contextual’ form of assessment. The National Standards are not ‘child contextual’. They are designed to assess each childs development against a one size fits all set of criteria. A hastily designed & error strewn criteria. A pass or fail system. There are assessment tools already in use which focus on what children can actually do. These are not National Standards.

    So, for Deborahs edification, that is a short answer. No ‘magic switch’, but the magic of actually understanding the debate goes a long way.

    As for the way Minister Tolley was treated. Perhaps, had the Minister actually bothered to properly consult with the teaching profession and actually listen (and comprehend) what she was being told, matters would not have reached this stage. If you are simply ignored, treated with platitiudes and accused for mischief making about what is actually quite a serious matter, I guess you would feel less than charitable as well. The point which Deborah completely misses, either through ignorance or through choice, is that the way the Minister was treated did not occur in a vacuum. It wasn’t like teachers suddenly decided to stop being respectful toward Ms Tolley. There is a sequence of events behind it.

    A little more understanding and thought would answer most of Deborah Conndingtons concerns.

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