Quality early learning is a right of every child

David Clark, Dunedin North MP.

Dunedin has always been a city of learning.

With some of the oldest high schools in the country (Otago Girls’ opened in 1870, Otago Boys’ in 1863) and of course New Zealand’s first university, we have a long history of commitment to education and to our next generation of learners.

When it comes to education, the first few years of a person’s life are crucial.

In fact, a great deal of research – including from our local, world-famous Dunedin study – shows that the first few years of a person’s life are crucial, not only when it comes to education, but when it comes to a number of other outcomes later in life.

Therefore, it makes sense to invest in our youngest learners.

In Budget 2018, we provided the first across-the-board funding increase for early childhood education in 10 years.

In the Government’s most recent Budget, we’ve continued our commitment to improve the quality of early childhood education by allocating $278.2 million to restore the 100% funding band for teacher-led services.

Currently, early childhood teacher-led centres need at least 50% of their staff to have a recognised teaching qualification.

In reality, almost all of these services employ 80% or more qualified teachers.

For those with 100% qualified staff, the reinstated funding band means they’ll now be able to access more funding, and rewards centres that are offering the highest quality education by employing a fully qualified teaching workforce.

This increased funding comes on top of another recently announced $320.8 million investment in early learning, which focused on improving the pay of some of the lowest paid teachers in education centres.

Dunedin is home to 575 qualified early childhood teachers, and last year the Otago region experienced one of the country’s greatest increase in the number of early education services.

I’m proud that our Government is recognising just how valuable these educators are, and supporting them to continue their important work.

High quality early learning is a right of every child, and their parents and whanau, to give them the best possible start in life.

We’re focused on lifting quality, and making sure every child can access a great early childhood education – because it matters.

New Zealand can and should be the best place in the world to be a child.