Better pay for certificated teachers in education and care services

Published on Wednesday, 28 July 2021
Last updated on Monday, 26 July 2021

Article hero image

No matter which early childhood education (ECE) service your child attends, you want to know that their teachers are being paid fairly for the care and expertise they provide, day in and day out.

Unfortunately, all pay packets haven’t been equal in early learning.

Despite the fact that all certificated teachers are qualified and registered with the Teaching Council and hold a current practising certificate, there is a gap between the salary of kindergarten teachers and those working in education and care services.

We are pleased to report that the government is prioritising pay parity for early learning teachers, though.

Its 2021 Budget has allocated $170 million over four years to improve the pay of the lowest paid certificated teachers in education and care services, and it’s just increased funding rates for these services to pay for better pay.

Today, we see what the move towards pay parity means for certificated teachers – and families – at teacher-led, centre-based education and care services. Plus, we report on other ECE spending in Budget 2021.

Why is there a pay gap between early learning teachers?

The Ministry of Education says education and care teachers and kindergarten teachers, ‘Have never been paid exactly the same,’ but this pay gap has become pronounced since 2010, when the government of the time, ‘Froze the funding rates for education and care services while continuing to provide rate increases for kindergartens to pay for collective agreement costs.’

What is the current government doing to even up early learning salaries?

When we fast-forward to 2021, Education Minister, Chris Hipkins says, ‘It’s only fair that teachers with the same qualifications carrying out the same work get paid equally.’ And although pay parity for education and care teachers isn’t something that will happen overnight, the government is taking steps to move towards it.

Its 2020 Budget invested $151.1 million over four years for improving teacher pay (in line with the Early Learning Action Plan 2019-2029), and the $170 million provided in its 2021 Budget continues this work by delivering pay increases to the lowest paid teachers’ salaries and supporting pay parity:

  • As of 1 July 2021, the government has increased the funding rates of education and care services, at the same time as raising the minimum salary that employers must ‘attest’ to paying their qualified and certificated teachers.

This minimum salary has increased from $49,862 to $51,358 per annum, and it’s estimated that around 1,250, full-time equivalent certificated teachers working in these services will have received a pay rise as of 1 July 2021.

If a service chooses not to attest to paying all certificated teachers at least $51,358 per annum, their funding rate will drop to the lowest band (the zero to 24 per cent certificated teachers funding band).

  • From 1 January 2022, another set of higher ‘premium’ funding rates will be made available to education and care services if they agree to pay, at a minimum, their certificated teachers in line with the first six pay steps set out in the kindergarten teachers’ collective agreement  (which has 11 pay steps).

    The first six pay steps go from $51,358 per annum up to $65,776 per annum, and the government anticipates that if a service opts in to the premium rates, some teachers will see a pay increase of up to 17 per cent.

If a service doesn’t opt in to the premium funding rates, but is paying all certificated teachers at least $51,358 per year, its funding will still be worked out according to the proportion of certificated teachers working with children (e.g. the 80 to 99 per cent certificated teachers funding band), and it won’t be dropped down to the lowest funding rate band (zero to 24 per cent).

This second increase in funding rates is subject to legislation being passed, and you can see the premium rates for all-day and sessional teacher-led, centre-based services here.

It’s also important to know that the increase in funding shouldn’t be pocketed by services. Instead, the Education Minister says, ‘We have an unequivocal expectation on centres receiving this funding that it is all passed onto teachers’ to improve pay.

What does fairer pay mean for families?

The move towards pay parity is good news for families, because it promises consistent and secure ECE delivered by educators who feel valued for the important work they do.

The Education Minister says, ‘These changes will address difficulties with recruitment and reduce turnover in education and care services as fewer teachers leave for higher pay elsewhere. This will help enable teachers to provide the consistent and secure relationships children need.’

Are Kaiako in kōhanga reo getting a pay rise, too?

The government explains that, ‘A very small number of kōhanga reo operate under education and care service funding arrangements’ and they could opt in to the higher funding rates, if they like, to provide higher pay for staff.

Extra funding has also been set aside to improve pay for staff in kōhanga reo, and the government is collaborating with Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust to agree how best to make this work.

What about certificated teachers in home-based services or playcentres?

‘Pay parity for education and care teachers’ is a manifesto commitment for our Labour government, but this commitment doesn’t extend to certificated teachers in home-based care or playcentres.

It’s focused on certificated teachers in education and care services only, which means that uncertificated or unqualified teachers in these services aren’t the focus either.

That said, the government recognises the skills and experience unqualified educators offer many services and says, ‘It is likely that recognition for this group of teachers will eventually be enabled through pay equity claims in relation to support staff’.

How else is Budget 2021 investing in early learning?

As well as committing millions to progress pay parity, the government is also spending money elsewhere:

  • From 1 January 2022, it’s allocating $100.7 million to provide an across-the-board 1.2 per cent increase to funding rates for all early learning providers (except for home-based services on the standard rate).
  • From 1 April 2022, it will adjust the income thresholds for Childcare Assistance every year to keep up with average wage growth (the thresholds were frozen back in 2010). The government says this will help 1,000 low- and middle-income families access assistance.
  • Budget 2021 is also providing for an extra 3,300 Outside of School Care and Recreation Service (OSCAR) places to help around 900 low-income parents, ‘Remain, or transition, into employment, training and education.’

This is all promising, and when we focus on the move towards pay parity, it is great to see the lowest paid teachers in education and care services receiving the financial boost they deserve.

Although change takes time, and this isn’t a pay rise for all teachers in all services, we hope the salary boost helps a great number of educators to feel more valued, satisfied and settled as they work their magic at education and care services.



The Ministry of Education

Early Learning Bulletin Special Bulletin 12 May

Early Learning Bulletin Special Bulletin 27 May

Early Learning Bulletin Issue 60

Related Articles

Article image

An Overview of Child Care Costs and Government Funding

Fees for early childhood education services and kohanga reo, and how the government helps families pay for early learning and child care.

Article image

Pay boost for ECE teachers

Budget 2020 offered good news for centre based early childhood educators with a pay increase, designed to move them towards parity with teachers in other areas of education.