State Sector Act Removes Anomaly In Early Childhood

  • Brian Donnelly
Associate Minister of Education

The changes to the State Sector Act passed by Parliament tonight remove an unfair anomaly in the early childhood sector, according to Associate Minister of Education Brian Donnelly.

Parliament today passed legislation removing Kindergarten Associations from the State Sector Act. Until now, the State Services Commission has negotiated with the kindergarten teachers' union over the teachers' Collective Employment Contracts, even though the Government does not employ kindergarten teachers. Now, the Kindergarten Associations will deal directly with their employees' representatives.

"This will let Kindergarten Associations respond directly to the needs of their local communities without the intervention of a Government agent, the State Services Commission," Mr. Donnelly said.

"The debate surrounding this Bill unfortunately gave the Opposition the opportunity to scare people into thinking that this would be the end of the Free Kindergarten movement."

"This is based on the mistaken belief that kindergartens are part of the state school sector. They are not. The kindergarten movement has always been an independent entity. It determines its own philosophy and management structure, chooses and employs the staff in kindergartens and decides how to spend the funding available to it, including the money from the Government."

"Equally mistaken are Labour's claims that this puts kindergartens on a slippery slope towards privatisation. However, the Government can't privatise what it doesn't own. And despite what Labour says, kindergartens actually want to own the Crown-owned properties they currently lease. The Government has started work on identifying property that could be transferred to early
childhood associations."

"Because the Government does not employ kindergarten teachers, there is no good reason for it to be a party to their employment contracts. The 'Before Five' policy contained the concept of the different parts of the sector being independent. Kindergartens in now in the same position as the rest of the early childhood sector."

Mr. Donnelly said the claim that kindergartens were the jewel in the crown of the early childhood sector was an insult to the rest of the sector.

"This ignores the commitment other people in the sector have to early childhood education. It ignores their training and qualifications. It ignores the fact that many of them can provide the same quality of education and care that kindergartens can, for much longer periods each day."

Mr. Donnelly also said kindergarten teachers are also worried that this move will force down their pay and conditions.

"The Government will be providing a significant amount of extra funding for early childhood education in this year's Budget, in excess of the rate of headline inflation."

"One of the factors required in order to achieve quality in early childhood education is stability of staffing. This comes from a combination of qualifications and pay and conditions."

"The Government wants to drive up the quality of the whole sector, not just a part that is represented by a strong union. This extra money that will be available this year comes with a strong signal from the Government that early childhood workers should have better pay and conditions."