Early Learning Action Plan to kickstart long term change

  • Hon Chris Hipkins

Today’s launch of He taonga te Tamaiti: Every child a taonga: The Early Learning Action Plan 2019-2029 provides the foundation for long-lasting changes to early learning, Education Minister Chris Hipkins says.

“Early learning will be one of the Government’s top education priorities going into 2020,” Chris Hipkins said.  

“The Action Plan sets out the priorities agreed with the sector and the public, after the most extensive consultation process in the history of early learning in New Zealand.”

The Government will be working, starting next year and over the next four years, to advance the actions in the Plan, including:

  • incentivising for 100 per cent and regulating for 80 per cent qualified teachers in teacher-led centres ; and then regulation for 100 per cent longer term
  • improving the consistency and levels of teacher salaries and conditions.

The Government will also advance work on:

  • the development of an early learning teacher supply strategy
  • a more active management approach to the network so all children have access to high quality learning
  • improving adult: child ratios for children under 2 years from 1:5 to 1:4 and from 1:10 to 1:5 for 2 year olds as funding allows
  • making sure children in under-served communities have access to high quality services that support their identity, language and culture.

“Some of the Plan’s objectives will be progressed in the Education and Training Bill, which I introduced to Parliament this week. The Bill changes licencing arrangements to ensure a more equitable and sustainable network. It also proposes increased monitoring to improve quality and safeguards for children in home based early learning services,” Chris Hipkins said.

Chris Hipkins also confirmed the Government has adopted a new early learning participation intensity measure showing that more children participated in early learning, at three and four years of age, for 20 hours or more per week in 2019.

“Previous participation measures have focussed on whether a child has attended any early childhood education when they start school, but didn’t say anything about how often or for how long they had attended. This tended to over-state ECE participation rates, whereas the new measures clearly shows we still have some way to go in order to ensure all children experience the benefit of quality ECE participation.

“More children attending early learning for longer hours is encouraging. But other data suggests an oversupply of provision in some communities, with occupancy rates falling, and an undersupply in others.

“We also know that not all children and whānau have equal access to resources within their community – the data shows that participation by Māori and Pacific children, and children in lower socio economic areas, continues to be below that of the general population. 

The lag reinforces the need for the Action Plan’s focus on increasing participation in these priority communities.

“The Early Learning Action Plan’s focus on higher quality early learning, which supports the learning, wellbeing and identity of every child, will benefit all of our young children, their families and whānau,” Chris Hipkins said.