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Remarkably unambitious ECE policy

Written By: - Date published: 11:53 am, July 11th, 2008 - 21 comments
Categories: education, flip-flop, national - Tags:

Another one-page excuse for a policy from National, this one on early childhood education. After vehemently opposing 20Free, National would now keep it but not because it wants to, only because ‘thousands of parents are now using 20 Hours and we do not want to cause them uncertainty’. Gee, thanks, National.

The headline change is renaming 20Free, 20 Hours ECE.

They will also extend 20Free to cover those 5 year olds who haven’t yet started school and include playcentres and kohanga reo, which seem like good proposals and are consistent with current policy work by the Ministry. The objective of boosting adult/child ratios is good but proposing to do it by reducing the qualifications that teachers need is a backwards step.

So, a few minor changes. Unfortunately, National hasn’t said how much their changes would cost, so we can’t see how this affects National’s ability to balance the books and offer significant tax-cuts.

Finally, let’s remember, these ‘policy announcements’ from National are really nothing of the sort. There’s no detail, no substance. It’s not a real policy if the entire thing is a dozen bullet points and no costings are made.

21 comments on “Remarkably unambitious ECE policy ”

  1. Wonderful – another dead rat swallowed.

    Ya know, with the amount of policy they’ve adopted or left unchanged a National Government for a term might not be so bad.

  2. BeShakey 2

    It’ll be interesting to see how many reasons National can come up with for keeping Labour policies they think are bad. Surely at some stage people will start to think it all looks like a grab for power from a party unwilling to stand on their principles, or am I being too optimistic?

  3. Snelly Boy 3

    So policy that Bill English called “stupid and discriminatory” when he was National’s education spokesman has now become theirs as well.

    What muppets.

    The 20 hour free scheme has meant a weekly saving of $125 to us so it’s pleasing to see that whatever the election outcome, that $6.5k pa saving will be maintained.

    Still no reason to turn blue though!

  4. dave 4

    Ive written on it here. Although it is a more honest policy than Labour’s, it still has faults. What a shame National weren’t in last year , I could have sent my son off to ECE for the school holidays instead of having him at home….

  5. mike 5

    Great move, removing the six hours a day limit is very sensible.
    6 hrs does not cover a working day. Our kids go in for 2 X 9hr days per week.

    Changing the name is an obvious one as it is only a subsidy in most cases.

  6. I will be going in search of the detail. However, my first thoughts are that in naming the polict 20 hours ECE, National is at least being honest about it. 20Free was conceived on the 2005 campaign trail, and like many bright ideas, it was not feasible. However Maharey pushed on with the policy, which was patently not free ECE. Had Labour called it 20 Hours ECE and stressed that itn was highly subsidised ECE, they would have had a winner. They would also have saved ECE services such as the one that my wife and I own and operate no end of stress working out how we could make it work based on the funding that Labour was prepared to pay (in our case, about 75% of our standard cost). In close consultation with senior staff at the MoE, we developed an Optional Charges policy; not one family has objected paying the optional charge in order to access the subsidised hours. I have nothing but praise for the MoE people for the way they were able to flesh out a coherent policy from a politician’s whim.

  7. “Ya know, with the amount of policy they’ve adopted or left unchanged a National Government for a term might not be so bad.”

    apart from the 90 Day No Rights Bill and and privatising ACC, and they won’t raise the minimum wage – three pretty strong counts against them purely on employment policy.

  8. Blar 8

    I vaguely recall being derided when I said that National’s second-tier policy releases would be done by spokespeople rather than the leader when the broadcasting policy was being discussed. Turns out I was right. Ho hum.

  9. That was me “deriding” you, you fool. And again I draw your attention the the second tier policy of free muesli bars ad sports clubs and who launched that. I should let you know that your sophism is embarrassingly obvious. Perhaps you need to consider a change in career…

  10. gobsmacked 10

    Labour (and the Standard) have missed too many opportunities to mock National for their craven flip-flops – because you’re too busy focusing on the “secret agenda” theme.

    This week was a perfect example. All three policy announcements (and yes, they are feebly thin) contained major shifts. This one is the biggest yet. Compare and contrast National’s previous stances – it’s hilarious, it’s breathtaking, and it’s begging to be derided.

    Spend more time proclaiming VICTORY, guys. Every craven cave-in by National is a tribute to Clark’s success. Laugh at the Key Worshippers who are now falling over themselves to endorse Labour policies.

    Forget the bogeyman meme. People aren’t going to learn to fear John Key, between now and election day. Sorry, they just aren’t – it doesn’t resonate. They can, however, see what an empty, laughable bunch of parrots the National Party has become. And also: see how the “spend, spend, spend” policy commitments are going to be a nightmare for Bill English.

    If you want to get mileage, ask yourselves how on earth these National policies can fit with Roger Douglas & co, and when that stand-off on the right is going to turn into a fight, especially in Epsom (with serious consequences).

    Because it will, and soon. Now that *will* be fun.

  11. outofbed 11

    what gobsmacked said

  12. gobsmacked 12

    what outofbed said 😉

    But just look at the massive spend-up National are promising:

    “We will retain all the existing subsidies and fee controls …

    “Include play centres and kohanga reo in 20 Hours ECE.”

    “Provide 20 Hours ECE to five-year-olds.”

    “Staff ratios for under two-year-olds are critical. We believe the current 1:5 ratio is too high. … Over time, we will reduce that ratio to 1:4.”

    Doing all of that would cost many, many millions.

    Still, if National want to deliver the Scandinavian Socialist Paradise, who am I to stop them?

  13. mike 13

    “This one is the biggest yet. Compare and contrast National’s previous stances – it’s hilarious, it’s breathtaking, and it’s begging to be derided.”

    GS: unfortunately for the Nats these social policies have become too entwined to just dump them. They have no choice but to adopt most of them or lose the election.
    The changes they have made to 20 hrs ECE do make sense though so at they are making the most of a flawed policy.

  14. gobsmacked 14


    Are you happy with increasing the tax dollars spent on ECE? Why is that a good thing? Why is it better than vouchers and user-pays? Are you a closet leftie?

    And a related topic, on education & the Nats’ U-turns …

    Orewa is dead and buried (Don who?): here’s some of that “race-based” divisiveness we were all urged to reject, but now it’s supported by National, naturally …


  15. mike 15

    “Are you a closet leftie?”

    Not at all. But I’m realistic about what National can do when its painted into a corner. Just like Labour didn’t roll back the Employment policy National introduced.

  16. mike. They replaced the ECA with the ERA, a half roll-back at least.

  17. gobsmacked – the provision to provide 20 hours ECE to five year olds only brings it into line with the rest of the current ECE policy. It actually tidies up a looophole left by Labour’s decision to restrict “free ECE” to 3 and 4 yo’s. For example, a child turns 5 one day after school breaks up for the year. Should the parents be disadvantaged by the child not having access to ECE from Dec 20 to Feb 5? Clearly, National thinks no.

    The provision to reduce staff ratios from 1:5 to 1:4 will not cost any more in ECE terms. It will be ECE providers who pick up the cost.

    The provision to include Kohanga and Playcentres is all about participation. Should a child be prevented from receiving the 20 hours ECE because there is not a teacher-led ECE service in their area? I would have thought you would have welcomed this move, which Labour has already flagged that it is considering!

  18. gobsmacked 18

    Inventory 2: I welcome any move to extend ECE, as public policy. I simply pointed out that it costs tax dollars, and is not what National usually stand for. But, yeah, bring it on. We won, you lost, eat rat.

    I expect National to win the election, and if the price we have to pay is the disappearance of right-wing policies, I won’t be weeping.

    Of course all these promises will have to be paid for, but that’s Bill’s problem, eh? First Cabinet walk out should be around March 2009, I reckon …

  19. Ari 19

    Gobsmacked: I don’t think Labour should be mocking them as “flipflops”- that’s stupid game-playing language that smacks of National’s usual tactics. They should be mocking them for abandoning their principles and having no clear justification for their change of mind.

  20. Julie 20

    Thanks for the link to the bullet-points, it is somewhat weird reading. Sorry this is going to be a long comment…

    In regard to the stuff around 20 Hours Free the extension to playcentre and kohanga reo is in line with National’s possible gutting of the requirement for qualified and registered teachers. It’s worth noting that kohanga reo actually can already qualify for 20 Hours Free, and there is at least one that does, but in general they tend not to because there are ongoing issues about recognising matauranga-type qualifications, and because in many communities kohanga reo is predominantly parent-led, while 20 Hours Free is for teacher-led services. Assumedly there are other types of centres, beyond kohanga reo and playcentre who would also qualify if the centre no longer needs to be (qualified and registered) teacher-led? And then it will cost more, because a whole lot of new centres will be entitled to a whole lot of Govt money, by way of the subsidised hours.

    On the issue of tackling the teacher shortage, I find it bizarre that National don’t mention the ECE diploma, but instead focus on the degree. Many diploma courses require students to work 20 hours and study 20 hours (a week) already, and I suspect that the majority of those becoming trained and registered in ECE are coming through the diploma route currently. I’m very curious about exactly how Montessori, Playcentre and Steiner quals would be counted against a degree – won’t that require some bureaucrats to come up with a system and then administer it?

    The number one way to tackle the shortage would be to raise wages, imho. However undermining the professional nature of ECE teaching by compromising the trained and registered requirement will only drive wages down (not to mention National’s other wage dropping ideas in the area of employment policy).

    I’m confused about the bit about the percentage of qualified and registered teachers. It looks like they are saying that the 50% qualified and registered target will only apply to under 2s (which is by far the smaller group of children in ECE) and that it will not have to be met until 2012? Whereas the current situation is that all centres must have 50% trained and registered, shifting to 100% in 2012, and regardless of the age of children.

    (Note: this comment is totally and utterly my PERSONAL opinion. I am currently on extended leave from a union job where I work with ECE teachers, amongst others. I have no idea, as yet, what that union’s response is to National’s policy.)

  21. Cheers Julie. Often, there’s no way for someone with only a cursory knowledge of an area to understand the full policy implications – I didn’t know about the under 2s teacher ratio, for example. Doubt our media will pick up on it either.

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