Government Moves Kindergartens On To New Footing

  • Brian Donnelly
Associate Minister of Education

The Government is moving to put kindergartens on the same industrial relations footing as all other early childhood providers, State Services Minister Jenny Shipley and Associate Education Minister Brian Donnelly announced today.

``A legislative amendment will remove kindergartens from the State Sector Act. This will mean that the employers of kindergarten staff, Kindergarten Associations, will be responsible for negotiating employment contracts with their staff directly, rather than having those negotiations handled by the State Services Commission on their behalf.

``Kindergarten Associations will act as employers in the same way that the Playcentre Associations are the employers of playcentre staff, and the Kohanga Reo Trust is the employer of Kohanga Reo staff.

``Currently 70 per cent of all children in early childhood education are enrolled with services which independently negotiate with the staff involved.

``It will be business as usual for children, parents and teachers, as kindergarten funding, support and monitoring will not be affected by this amendment.

``The Government has been talking to the Kindergarten Associations since 1995 about their taking on the negotiation role. Already the Auckland Kindergarten Association is doing its own negotiations by choice, because it wanted the flexibility to address its own specific recruitment and retention issues in the 102 kindergartens it covers.

The Government has now decided to move to the next stage, by making the necessary legislative changes in time for this year's negotiations.

``This amendment establishes a consistent approach across the early childhood sector, and is a logical flow on of the policy direction successive governments have been taking for the past decade,'' the Ministers said.

In 1988 the ``Before Five'' report set a goal of providing quality, affordable, self-managing early childhood education which is accessible to all.

That has already led to a uniform approach being taken with the introduction of common licensing requirements and national curriculum guidelines for all early childhood education providers.

``At the same time, consistency does not mean creating a homogenous service. The Government acknowledges that different Early Childhood services provide different types of service which meet different needs and are funded at different rates. This amendment will not affect the current funding structure.

``The legislation will be accompanied by extra funding of $236 thousand to cover the costs associated with this year's negotiations, such as advocacy and legal services.

``The law change will enable Kindergarten Associations, as employers, to better meet the needs of their communities in the longer term, by being able to meet local requirements.

``While this is a big change for Kindergarten Associations and the teachers they employ, we are confident they will cope as well as others in the early childhood sector,'' the Ministers concluded.