Media Releases

Early childhood regulation changes: put children not business first, says union

16 Apr 2024

The Government needs to be putting early childhood teachers, children, and their families first, rather than business, say members of the country’s largest education union NZEI Te Riu Roa.

Centre manager and member Megan White says the latest regulation changes, announced on Tuesday, do nothing to address the main concerns for teachers, parents, and children – such as the chronic teacher shortage, poor pay and conditions.

Instead, the changes made by the Government and the reforms foreshadowed by the Associate Minister will only benefit business set to make profit from children’s early education, she says.

“It’s really sad. From all the research, we know that the early years are the most important years of a child’s entire life, and what we are seeing from the Government does not reflect that at all.

“It is not valuing our experience, the qualifications we have, or even what we do – it’s a complete undervaluation of kaiako (teachers) and the work we do with tamariki.”

Megan says removing the qualification requirements for persons in charge puts teachers in a potentially vulnerable position: “Early childhood kaiako have specialist knowledge and experience. Given their overall responsibility for the learning and health and safety of tamariki, it’s essential that any person in charge is fully qualified and certified.”

Network approval provisions were originally set up to achieve better outcomes for communities and to make sure families had more equitable access to early childhood education that suited their needs, she says.

“Removing this will allow for-profit businesses to set up centres without consideration for community need, and we know this will disproportionately affect Māori, Pacific, additional learning needs and migrant or refugee communities the most.

“Families may have to make decisions that are not necessarily based on quality or best practice if smaller, community-based centres have to compete with larger for-profit ones and end up closing down – and that’s scary.”

Megan says rather than profit, the interests of kaiako, parents, and communities should be at the forefront of decisions about early childhood education provision, as this would truly enable the Government to address the issues facing the sector.

“It’s about protecting, valuing and respecting the mahi that our teachers do and the needs of our youngest learners. We have to create better working conditions for teachers, so they are able to provide the best conditions for our tamariki to learn and develop in.”