Budget 2004: Landmark budget for educating young kiwi kids

  • Trevor Mallard

Education Minister Trevor Mallard today announced a landmark package for New Zealand's youngest children and their families through the provision of free early childhood education and significant new funding to ensure early childhood education of the best possible quality.

The package will implement a comprehensive plan for early childhood education that will be completed by 2012.

"Our government is firmly committed to giving all young New Zealanders the opportunity to have the best possible start in education and to develop a lifetime love for learning. Research tells us that intensive and regular early childhood education is critical to ensuring our kids do well later in life," Trevor Mallard said.

"We are investing new funding of $365 million over the next four years in early childhood education, bringing total annual funding by 2007-08 to approximately $660 million. Funding will increase to around $750 million annually in 2011-12.

"From the middle of 2007, three and four-year old children will be entitled to 20 hours free attendance per week at a community-based early childhood education service. This is a significant step, extending the tradition of free early childhood education from kindergartens to other community-based centres.

"This investment will make quality early childhood education available to more New Zealand children, while at the same time keeping a lid on costs to parents.

"Budget 2004 marks the start of a new era for early childhood education in New Zealand, and is the first major change in the funding of early childhood education since 1989.

"It is a significant foundation that we will build on as we continue to train our sights on getting more children into early childhood education, and on delivering education that is of the best quality possible.

"This major new investment means by 2008 this government will have increased its investment in early childhood education by 79 per cent compared to 1999.

"From 1 April next year a new resourcing system will support the different ways early childhood education is provided. It will benefit the entire sector - from community-based centres to private providers. Significant extra funding will better support the costs of providing quality early childhood education, such as improved staff to child ratios and the hiring of staff who have early childhood education qualifications.

"Rural early childhood education services will for the first time have a guaranteed minimum amount of funding, of either $15,000 or $20,000 annually depending on size, to support sustainable services in our most isolated areas."

Trevor Mallard said there would also be more help with childcare costs through the Working for Families package announced by Social Services Minister Steve Maharey today.

As part of Working for Families, childcare subsidies provided through Work and Income are being increased to make quality early childhood education and care more affordable. From October 2004 more families will qualify for a subsidy and subsidy rates will increase significantly.

The package includes:

  • An extra $307 million over four years to implement the early childhood education strategic plan which is aimed at lifting quality of education and increasing participation;
  • An extra $22 million over four years for an inflation-adjusted increase to early childhood education funding rates to ensure funding keeps pace with cost increases until the new funding system is in place;
  • An extra $13 million over four years for programmes to help teachers better assess children's learning ability and needs and to implement professional standards in kindergartens; and
  • An extra $23 million over four years to increase specialist support for special needs children in the early years and to provide better information and support for specialists, teachers and parents.

More details about the funding system, including the funding rates, will be announced later in the year as the new funding system is rolled out.

A fact sheet giving more detail about this budget package is available on www.beehive.govt.nz/families and on www.minedu.govt.nz/goto/ecefundingchanges.

The strategic plan can be found on www.minedu.govt.nz/goto/ecestrategicplan

See all budget releases at www.beehive.govt.nz/budget