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Pre-school centres need more funds: union

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 5/11/2016 Daniel Gilhooly

Early childhood education centres are struggling to make ends meet under what is effectively a six-year funding freeze, the country's largest education unions says.

Pre-school centres are being forced to cut teacher pay, rely more on untrained staff, reduce qualified time with children and ask for more cash from parents, all of which is unsustainable, the New Zealand Education Institute says after it surveyed 264 out of more than 4500 ECEs.

Eighty-seven per cent said they had shortfalls in government funding, 70 per cent increased fees to parents and 83 per cent had cut services or facilities.

The union blames the government, since 2010, only funding a maximum of 80 per cent trained staff and wanting to increase ECE participation to 98 per cent.

An extra $369 million in this year's budget (over four years) would be swallowed up by more children taking part, the union says.

"Instead of aiming for the best quality early childhood education possible, the government has lowered teacher standards, and starved the sector of funding, as it focuses on driving as many children to participate as possible," NZEI executive member Virginia Oakley said on Sunday.

The union wants the government to commit to having all fully trained staff in ECEs, fund them 100 per cent of them and to increase per-child funding to 2010 levels, inflation adjusted.

It also wants to reduce class sizes and the teacher to child ratios.

The government spends more than $1.6 billion on ECE each year.

It recently announced a review into what was being taught at ECEs.

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