Highlighting the significant difference in pay rates between early childhood education (ECE) teachers and teachers in other schools and kindergartens, the 2020 Budget has delivered a significant funding boost of $151.1 million over four years for early learning services to increase the pay of around 17,000 educators.
The minimum salary for teachers working in early childhood education centres is currently $45,491 or $46,832, depending on their qualifications. On 1 July 2020, the minimum salary will increase to $49,862 – bringing them in line with kindergarten teachers.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins acknowledged that while this increase is a start, pay equity is a way off yet.
“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,” he said.
From July 2020, education and care services will receive the additional funding through a 2.3 per cent increase in their subsidy rates. Education and care services, like other early learning service types will also receive a 1.6 per cent increase in their subsidy rates from 1 January 2021 to help meet cost pressures over the past year, for a combined increase of 3.9 per cent to current rates.
The funding boost has received mixed reviews in the early childhood sector. Virginia Oakly the spokesperson of public education advocacy group NZEI Te Riu Roa said the announcement was fantastic.
“We welcome this as a great first step towards pay parity for early childhood teachers following a decade of neglect by the previous government. Today's announcement means there is now the same minimum rate of base pay for qualified teachers right across the sector," she said.
However, Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand Chief executive Kathy Wolfe said the funding boost for ECE teachers was insufficient.
“Paying ECE teachers equitably will help to rebuild and sustain our economy by supporting families returning to work and rebuilding their businesses, and by our teachers’ own spending in the domestic economy.
“It is also the right thing to do. ECE teachers are qualified, highly skilled and dedicated, and they have been working under sustained pressure since funding and support for ECE was significantly reduced under the previous government. No other part of the education system had its funding reduced to the same degree, and this has led to ECE becoming the ever-poorer relation of the teaching profession,” she said.
Home based care
Home-based care providers will also receive $36.2 million in additional funding over the next four years to support their transition to a more qualified and professional workforce.
The Minister says this will lift the quality rate for home-based early childhood education by 5.4 per cent from 1 January 2021, including the cost pressures adjustment. Home-based services on the standard rate with educators completing the Level 4 ECE qualification will also gain five hours of additional visiting teacher support per week, and funding will provide tertiary fees assistance for up to 2,646 students that are not eligible for free fees.
“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-based educator workforce will hold a required qualification, to ensure better and more consistent quality,” Chris Hipkins said.
The Budget also provided additional funding of $3.1 million over four years to support playcentres.
“The increase in funding rates from July 2020 will help support more than 400 playcentres so they can continue to provide this unique early learning choice to around 9,500 children and their families,” Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin said.
Playcentre rates will rise by 7.6 per cent, including the cost pressure adjustment.