Good news for low-paid early childhood educators

Published on Wednesday, 03 June 2020
Last updated on Wednesday, 21 October 2020

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When it comes to learning and development, the first five years of a child’s life are crucial. Ninety per cent of a child’s brain develops at this time, and although parents play a key role in supporting this growth, early childhood education teachers also work hard to engage, extend and excite young minds.

Educators encourage a love of learning through playful experiences, they support children in meaningful ways, and they help to unlock youngsters’ potential now and in the future.

We all rely on the talents of teachers, so it’s good to see that low-paid educators are getting a raise.

Specifically, the government has handed down its Budget 2020 and provided a $151.1 million funding boost, over four years, to improve the pay of up to 17,000 qualified teachers working at education and care services. 

What is the background to this pay rise?

The government acknowledges that there is a large pay gap between early childhood education centre teachers and teachers in schools and kindergartens. 

This has grown over time, and under the previous government, kindergartens got a rise in funding rates to meet the cost of pay settlements that wasn’t passed on to education and care services, as it had been before.

Considering that education and care services provide the bulk of early learning in this country (with 68 per cent of children enrolled in this type of service last year), it’s important that teachers at these services get fair remuneration.

How much will educators get?

The minimum starting salary for a teacher working in an early childhood education centre is currently $45,491 or $46,832 per year, depending on their qualifications.

From 1 July 2020, though, the minimum salary will be upped to $49,862, bringing it in line with the pay of kindergarten teachers.

Education and care services will get the additional funding through a 2.3 per cent increase in their subsidy rates from July 2020. They’ll also get an increase (along with other types of early learning services) of 1.6 per cent from 1 January 2021.

This is a good start, but the government admits there is more work to be done.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins says, ‘This funding boost goes some way towards levelling the playing field for ECE centres looking to employ qualified teachers, but I do acknowledge that fully closing the gap between education and care services and kindergartens will be a challenge to be addressed over a number of Budgets.’

How does this pay rise relate to broader plans for early learning?

The government’s Early Learning Action Plan 2019-2029 sets out five key objectives and 25 actions to raise quality levels, improve equity and enable choice in early learning.

As part of this plan, the government wants to move towards a fully qualified teacher workforce in teacher-led centres, and improve the consistency and levels of teacher salaries and conditions across the early learning sector, so the July 2020 pay rise for some educators is a step in this direction. 

What else is the Budget offering for early learning?

The government is investing $320.8 million in early learning through this year’s Budget, and home-based care and playcentres are receiving extra cash.

Mr Hipkins says, ‘Home-based early childhood education has been the fastest growing part of the early learning sector. In the future, at least 80 per cent of the home-base educator workforce will hold a required qualification, to ensure better and more consistent quality.’

With this in mind, the government is providing $36.2 million of extra funding over four years to help home-based early learning centres transition to a more professionalised workforce:

  • There will be a 5.4 per cent increase to the quality rate for home-based services from 1 January 2021;
  • Educators working at standard rate home-based services will get five extra hours of visiting teaching support when they complete their Level 4 ECE qualification; and
  • Up to 2,646 students who are ineligible for free tertiary fees will get fee assistance.

Playcentres will receive $3.1 million in additional funding over four years. Their rates will rise by 7.6 per cent from July 2020 to help support more than 400 playcentres, and in turn, around 9,500 children and their families.

What assistance is being provided to kōhanga reo in response to COVID-19?

The government has announced an extra $200 million to fund Te Kōhanga Reo and support Māori language and education in the wake of the pandemic.

Associate Education Minister, Kelvin Davis says this funding will, ‘Help ensure kaiako are adequately paid and learning facilities are in good condition in order to support the revitalisation of te reo Māori.

All up, there has been a $400 million increase in funding for Māori education to ‘support Māori learners and whānau to reconnect and succeed in education.’

In summary, the government recognises the importance of a child’s first five years and the amazing work that educators do. It’s taking steps to ensure that teachers get fair recompense and that children can reap the rewards – now and later – of quality early learning. Stay tuned!


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