National Party Media Release

6 July, 2005

The next National Government will introduce a new tax deduction for pre-school childcare costs to ease the financial pressures on parents, particularly on second-income earners and employed sole parents, National Party Leader Don Brash announced today.

The policy will take effect on 1 April next year, and will cost an estimated $160 million per year.

In the first step in a phased release of tax policy, Dr Brash says “National intends to support families by providing them with real choices about how they balance and manage their own lives.”
“National recognises that childcare costs are a serious burden for families.

“The basic principle behind this policy is that we regard childcare costs as a legitimate work expense for second-income earners who would otherwise be engaged in childcare, and for employed sole parents.

“National will recognise as tax deductible the pre-school childcare costs of working parents up to $5,000 per child.  Costs will be deductible at 33% of out-of-pocket childcare costs.  In effect, one-third of childcare costs will be able to be claimed, resulting in a tax refund of a maximum of $1,650 per child.

“This will be available for all forms of childcare – that provided by registered childcare centres, or informal arrangements such as nannies and other home-based care.”

The deduction will be modelled on the existing housekeeper rebate.

“Providing a tax deduction will enable parents to choose the type and duration of childcare which best suits their circumstances.

“National recognises that childcare choices made by families vary according to where they live, the service they use and the hours they work.  We do not think the government should dictate what sort of childcare is best for families.

“This policy is designed to ease the burden faced by parents who choose to work outside the home and bring up children, and reflects the fact that for most families financial pressures mean that both parents need to work.”

National’s full tax package, to be announced at a later date, will ease the pressures on middle-income families.

Trevor Mallard speech at launch of Early Education Federation

5 July, 2005

Good evening everyone. Thank you for inviting me to the launch of the Early Education Federation. Congratulations to everyone involved in this new beginning for you all.

For over two decades your organisation – under an old alias – has made a significant contribution to the lives of countless young New Zealanders. You’ve played an important and valuable part in helping form new policy for early childhood education and in particular you have given strong support to the early childhood education strategic plan and its implementation.

We can all be proud of the progress that has been made in early childhood education, and I would like to thank you personally for positive and constructive contribution.

As you celebrate your new organisation tonight, it’s worth looking at the huge progress we are making in early childhood education through the strategic plan.

We can all be proud to say Pathways to the Future: Ngā Huarahi Arataki is changing the face of early childhood education in New Zealand.

Changes ushered in by the strategic plan ultimately mean a seamless education system from birth to 19 years will be available for every young New Zealander.

Quality early childhood education will quite rightly be recognised as having a vital role in establishing a strong foundation for a child’s learning.

And innovative professional learning will be backed by an excellent institutional framework as the changes we are delivering through the strategic plan take hold.

Substantial government funding has enabled the progress we have made for accessible and affordable quality early childhood education.

Our significant new investment of $152 million over the next four years from this year’s Budget means total expenditure on early childhood education in 2008-09 will be $694 million, an increase of 140 per cent since we came to government in 1999.

Just last Friday the extra new funding for running an early childhood centre began.

This was a significant milestone on the road toward providing a funding system that recognises and encourages the different needs and strengths across the sector; a system that is transparent and more responsive to the cost of operating different types of services.

The new funding system and recent increases to funding rates mean a service’s child-hour funding rates can only increase between now and 2007; even where a service has few registered teachers it can continue to receive the former Rate 2 until 2007.

Our goal now and with your support is to continue improving the quality of early childhood education and ensure participation rates keep climbing.

We’ve made great gains in participation already – enrolments have increased by nearly 10,000 in the past two years.

To continue this trend we need to provide good information about the benefits of early childhood education and ensure all families have options that suit their needs.

The Promoting Participation Project will continue to support disadvantaged families who might not otherwise participate in early childhood education.

Increased funding for the Discretionary Grants Scheme will ensure new services are available in areas of need. As a result of Budget 2005 some 55 to 65 more community-based centres will be built over the next four years.

This will create many more places for youngsters in the lead-up to the introduction of the 20 hours free early childhood education for all three and four-year olds in community-based centres in 2007.

On that note, I must remind you of what my opponents have promised to do to early childhood education. National has pledged to scrap our government’s commitment to the 20 hours free policy.

This effectively means that around 86,000 children and their families will miss out, in order to help pay for that party’s tax cuts.

I believe other cuts are in store – and English is preparing the groundwork for this. Why else would you criticise widely-accepted domestic and international research that tells us how important quality early childhood education can be for children’s success in education later on.

Why else would you criticise our government’s determination to widen access to quality early childhood education, and our intention to improve affordability so more families can take part.

In contrast, I am sure I do not need to reiterate my own and the Labour-led government’s continued commitment to early childhood education, as we continue our focus on increasing participation in quality, affordable early childhood education.

Labour’s manifesto is still being finalised, but I’d like to signal some of our current thinking.

On the quality side, you will be aware that the Ministry of Education consulted on three options to improve adult: child ratios last year, and also separately on proposals to improve group sizes in services.

We’ve known for a long time that good adult: child ratios are associated with better outcomes for children, so it was no surprise that the feedback on this supported making improvements. Feedback on group sizes told us that, at this stage, change through regulation could lead to negative outcomes for levels of participation.

Going forward there is more work being done on both proposals, so I will be consulting with you further before a decision on ratios is made. With regards to group sizes, I have deferred a decision until 2009 to allow for more information to be gathered. However, we are working towards improvements in both these areas for the future.

Another important focus is improving access. We will be working with existing early childhood providers to extend services, by either growing their centres where appropriate or establishing additional centres on other sites.

Employers, particularly in the state sector, will be encouraged to establish early childhood education and care facilities on work sites.

Greater family and whanau involvement will be encouraged through targeted education programmes and improved co-ordination with health and social service agencies.

In addition, to help ensure services are working to meet the needs of the families they serve, we will move toward requiring parental and staff involvement in the governance of early childhood services. This will include providing them with good information to guide their input.

We all know the involvement of parents and whanau can work wonders for their children’s learning.

Budget 2005 also provided $16 million for Foundations for Discovery, the new information communications technologies framework for early childhood education.

This framework promotes using technology as part of a young child’s education and is also an administration tool helping services to streamline their administrative systems.

Seeing the way some of our youngsters are using this new technology has amazed me – they are taking better digital photos than me and having great fun using ICT as they learn.

This year we also released the early childhood education exemplars.

What is really exiting about the exemplars is they include the voices of parents and whanau, alongside teachers and children.

This is a ground breaking and innovative move for early childhood education in New Zealand and I believe for the rest of the world.

Finally, these are exciting times for early childhood education up and down the country. We can take a moment tonight to proudly chalk up the improvements we’ve made to date, before we get back to work and put our collective minds to charting the course for the future.

I look forward to continuing to working alongside you as we seek to improve even more the education our under-fives receive.

Again warm congratulations on your new future as the Early Education Federation.


Thank you.

Linda Mitchell speech at launch of Early Education Federation

5 July, 2005

Linda Mitchell is a Senior Researcher, NZ Council for Educational Research and founding member of the Federation of Early Childhood Education Organisations, predecesor to the Early Education Federation

I am delighted to be speaking at the launch of the Early Education Federation. It’s lovely to see so many familiar faces, and new faces too, and to know that your organisation is thriving, with a new name and a common focus on what is at the heart of your role and influence – developing a collective voice to influence and promote good quality ECE. It may seem hard to believe, but the Department of Education paid representatives of national ECE organisations in 1986 to fly to Auckland and attend the week-long course at Lopdell House where the aims and constitution for this organisation were developed. I was a participant on this course, and when we thought up the name FECEO none of us liked it much – it was one of those names emerging from committee decision-making – it wasn’t snappy and we weren’t very keen on the acronym. Early Education Federation is a great name.

Then as now, FECEO members had their eyes set on goals for children and families, and good conditions for the staff and parent educators who work in early childhood education settings. FECEO has been an advocate for good quality early childhood education since its inception, sometimes stronger in offering a voice than other times. One of the organisation’s first submissions was to the Social Assistance Cabinet Committee in April 1991 following on from the four major reviews of early childhood education funding, staffing, curriculum and properties. Reading the submission, I was struck by the persistence of the arguments. While they have changed in some shape and detail, core ideas have remained, and are now being implemented through the strategic plan for early childhood education, Pathways to the Future – Nga Huarahi Arataki. In April 1991, the organisation cautioned against increased access at the expense of quality and argued for [and I quote]:

?      the right of every preschool child to attend an early childhood education service delivered by trained competent people, and to have needs met regardless of gender, ethnicity, class, special need or location, in a specifically equipped environment which meets the child’s developing needs;

?      a funding formula linked to costs and operation;

?      weighting in the formula for aspects that now form most of the components of equity funding;

?      assistance for staff to undertake training towards a teacher qualification;

?      three age bands in the staffing regulations; and

?      greater governmental support for community-based provision to meet needs of all families, including better planning.

The submission wasn’t listened to then. Quite the reverse – I remember Crispin Gardiner, a member of the early childhood funding review team at that time publicly stating that none of the submissions were read. He left the team in protest and wrote his own independent report. And I’m sure many here will remember the “mother of all budgets” in July 1991 when the then Finance Minister Ruth Richardson cut funding for under twos from $7-25 an hour to $4-50, when staff: ratio requirements for under twos were reduced from 1:4 to 1:5, and when the blueprint goal for improving teacher qualifications was dropped.

Despite these setbacks, the basic ideas continued to be advocated by members of this organisation in the 1996 Early Childhood Education Project Future Directions, and in the Strategic Plan for Early Childhood Education Working Group. Some fundamental aspects – a greater role for the state in supporting early childhood education provision, support for teacher education, and a funding system that moves away from low levels of funding with everyone treated the same towards a better funded system based on costs – are now embedded in the strategic plan, Pathways to the Future – Ngä Huarahi Arataki, alongside an emphasis on pedagogical support.

I was asked to contribute to your celebration by “looking at where the organisation has come from, what you have been through and where you are going”. I believe your continued viability 19 years after being established, is because members have a vision for what they want that is wider than individual interests, believe in collective work to achieve goals that respect the diversity of early childhood education, are able to explain their position, and have a commitment to good quality community-based early childhood education for all children.

I can’t tell you where you are going but I do see three key immediate challenges:

?      First, to work together on aspects of the strategic plan that are currently unformulated and awaiting policy development so that your views about it are heard. And I’m thinking particularly of the expected policy development on parent and whänau –led services, so that the high levels of volunteer workload are reduced, parents and whänau are supported to take up training opportunities provided by their own infrastructure, and the contribution of these services to parent learning and support is acknowledged within the policy framework. And of resource development to support Pasifika centres, multi-cultural resources for working with a more ethnically diverse New Zealand, and the up-coming consideration of professional development and leadership programmes.

A second challenge is for ECE services themselves to offer pedagogical support for the teacher/educators who are directly working with children. There is evidence for example that centres that found it easier to meet qualification requirements of the strategic plan were those that relied on providing opportunities for professional development and staff training, rather than on recruiting new staff with the necessary qualifications. The best evidence synthesis on characteristics of effective professional development linked to children’s learning that I and Pam Cubey wrote showed the importance of centre management that value and support ongoing professional development and teacher/educators having time and effective opportunities within their working week for reflection and discussion. As national organisations representing your own membership, there is a role in encouraging responsibility for these framing conditions. These include rates of pay.

?      And, given that the strategic plan for early childhood education Pathways to the Future – Ngä Huarahi Arataki encompasses ideas advocated by the Early Education Federation, the third challenge is to ensure that the government that is elected this year will retain the strategic plan and further the interests of the early childhood education sector, because history tells us that long term plans have a habit of going astray.

Education Review Office. (2003). Readiness for new qualification requirements in early childhood

Mitchell, L., & Cubey, P. (2003). Characteristics of effective professional development linked to enhanced pedagogy and children’s learning in early childhood settings. A best evidence synthesis. Wellington: Ministry of Education.