Friday, January 28, 2022

Baby steps for sustainable early learning sector

An addition to the education and training amendment Bill will help make the early education sector sustainable, of higher quality and more diverse, Education Minister, Chris Hipkins said today.

“Parts of the sector have been telling us for some time that new services opening up are outstripping demand from parents and this is affecting the viability of existing service providers. Since 2016, one of the most common reasons services have given for closure has been a declining roll,” Mr Hipkins said.

“Our early learning network needs to be managed better. That’s why we propose to introduce network national and regional statements, following input from the sector and Māori, detailing what types of services are needed and where.

“These statements will also help identify areas of undersupply to support service growth where needed, and so services that communities need, such as Māori immersion, or Pacific language nests, can be provided for their children.”

From 1 August 2022, providers are required to seek pre-approval before establishing a new service. These further changes will introduce new requirements around capability, and determining the suitability of an applicant to run a service, the Minister said.

The Ministry plans to consult with the sector and others early next year about putting these changes in place, he said.

“These changes will mean better quality early learning services for families and a better deal for taxpayers.”

This adds to a requirement in the bill for all non-teaching and unregistered employees in early learning or schooling to be police vetted before beginning employment. Previously, employers only needed to apply for workers to be vetted within two weeks of starting work.

The Bill, which also strengthens the wellbeing and safety code and the dispute resolution scheme for domestic and international tertiary students, has passed first reading, Mr Hipkins said.

“These changes, along with simplifying qualifications and credentials to better meet the needs of employers and students are all part of the Government’s ongoing drive to improve the quality of education services.”

“Other changes include streamlining the Teaching Council disciplinary regime by allowing more disputes to be resolved quicker and at a lower level – which is fairer and more efficient for all parties. This, along with previous changes to clarify the Council’s fee setting powers, will make the Council more sustainable by reducing costs and the time taken to resolve matters before it.

“All the bill’s proposals have either been supported following consultation or have been discussed with the relevant sector. They reflect the government’s strong desire to strengthen the wellbeing and safety of learners, and improve service quality across the entire education system,” he said.

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