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Every child is worth it

Shaping our future: Our 10-year strategic plan for early childhood education

Mā whero mā pango ka oti ai te mahi

With red and black the work will be done.

We need to be ambitious for our tamariki and their future. The wellbeing of our tamariki and their learning in the early years is the foundation for their success in life. That’s why we need action now.

Our recommendations are the result of a six-month conversation between members and friends of NZEI Te Riu Roa. They provide a strong indication to Government of what needs to change in ECE.

We need to shape the future of early childhood education to ensure:

  • every child can access quality public provision of community-based, locally responsive and culturally sustaining early childhood education services
  • the Government’s commitment to the mana, hauora and wellbeing of children is a reality
  • there is a commitment to quality teaching and learning through a 100% qualified, fairly remunerated and fairly treated workforce
  • the rights of children are centre stage, and the whakamana of tamariki is celebrated in the presence of teachers, kaiako and whānau

The starting point

As part of consultation on a 10-year strategic plan for ECE the Government has set out five significant objectives for early learning and outlined some of the implications for these. In responding to these objectives members drew from the principles of Te Whāriki, Tataiako, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Sustainable Development Goals, Ka Hikitia, Te Whatu Pokeka and a refreshed Pasifika education plan. Members started from a position of child rights and clear commitments to indigenous education frameworks. This shifts the direction of the Ministry’s plan away from using ECE as a gendered labour market instrument and instead focuses on building quality public ECE provision that is responsive to children, whānau, hapu and community.

The end point

These recommendations are an outline of the substantial thoughts we have gathered. A full report will be collated, released and provided to Government as part of the ECE 10-year strategic plan consultation process.

Our recommendations

Our recommendations are set out here. First is the Government objective from the strategic plan consultation document followed by our response.

1. Learners at the Centre

Government objective:

In the context of early learning, this includes actively supporting the establishment of new public early childhood centres in areas of low-provision and supporting and lifting the quality of services that predominantly enrol Māori and Pacific children.”

NZEI Te Riu Roa recommends:

  • The establishment of new public early childhood centres in areas of low provision.
  • Increased cultural responsiveness in all services.
  • A much more ambitious programme of public provision for all tamariki.



2. Quality Inclusive Public Education

Government objective:

“This involves turning the tide away from a privatised, profit-focused education system. In the context of early learning, this includes working to ensure that community-based early childhood education services have well-maintained facilities and are able to expand to meet growing demand.”

NZEI Te Riu Roa recommends:

  • An ambitious strategy of re-balancing the sector toward public provision, achieved by using existing kindergarten and willing community providers as a hub to build a new system with governance, professional and administrative supports.
  • Prioritisation of public funding for public services meeting quality criteria.
  • Public provision of ECE being automatically prioritised when new services are required.



3. Quality Teaching

Government objective:

Over time, the Government’s aim is to achieve 100% qualified teachers in all centre-based teacher-led early learning services and to improve group size and teacher: child ratios for infants and toddlers”

NZEI Te Riu Roa recommends:

  • Urgent action on improving ratios.
  • Funding ratios of 1:3 for children under 3 as a priority.
  • Excellent, rather than minimum, standards, pay and conditions for all staff in ECE services.
  • Immediate reinstatement of 100% quality teacher funding, re-setting the goal of 100% qualified teachers with a phased action plan.
  • Addressing wage injustice by funding for pay parity and speedy progress on a sector-wide pay equity claim.
  • Development of a comprehensive workforce plan that addresses both short and long-term workforce needs, includes ITE and on-going professional learning and covers teachers, kaiako, support staff and learning support specialists.



4. Barrier-Free Access

Government objective:

In the context of early learning, this includes putting the “free” back into the policy of 20 Hours Free early learning for all three and four year olds, and those five year olds who aren’t yet in school."

NZEI Te Riu Roa recommends:

  • A vision of a public ECE system that is free for all children.
  • Immediately increasing the current 20 hours free subsidy for 3 and 4 year olds.



5. 21st Century Learning 

Government objective:

The Government is committed to focusing on learning that is relevant to the lives that New Zealanders are living today, the technology they will interact with, and the types of skills that will provide them with the opportunities to thrive in all aspects of their lives.”

NZEI Te Riu Roa recommends:

  • An increased focus on professional learning and development for ECE teachers.
  • Funding for PLD for all teachers on Te Whāriki implementation and assessment.
  • Funding for digital technology provision, PLD and equitable access (for learning support and online distance learners).
  • Research is undertaken to ensure ethical practices from both Te Ao Māori and other lenses are available to inform an ECE digital strategy.
  • Development of a dedicated digital strategy with ECE sector and community input.

Making it a Reality – First Steps in a Timeframe for Quality Public Early Childhood Education

We need action now, the next two years are crucial. The wellbeing of our tamariki and their learning in the early years is the foundation for their success in life.


Funding for quality

  • Reinstatement of funding for centres with 100% qualified teachers.
  • An urgent funding jolt for provision of early intervention, to return to at least 2007 levels of service intensity.
  • Commitment to phased incentives for the key quality public early childhood dimensions within the next 1-3 years, including improved ratios.
  • Development of funding systems to incentivise quality public early childhood education (100% qualified teachers, ratio improvements, collective agreements with sustained PLD provision, collective agreements that deliver excellent rather than minimum conditions including pay rates).
  • Progress ECE pay equity claims.
  • Develop process and action plan to implement central funding for teachers.

Planning for quality

  • Develop policy that supports prioritisation of new centres in areas of low provision being public early childhood centres.
  • Develop policy that supports new centres being vertically integrated with schools.
  • Analysis of localised provision with forecasting for the next 10 years.
  • Development of hubs, based on kindergarten and willing community providers, to support a public early childhood education system.
  • Urgently strengthen workforce planning to:
  • Progress the achievement of meeting the target for 100% qualified teachers in all teacher-led services.
  • Ensure pathways from ITE to teaching and leadership for Māori teachers and leaders, and Pasifika teachers and leaders.

Legislating for quality

  • Amend legislation and licensing regulations to prioritise and resource public early childhood education.
  • Strengthen licensing and regulatory frameworks to capture dimensions of quality education delivery and assessment.



  • Design of planned public provision tested, with community, sector and wider stakeholders input. Use ELI, MSD, and Statistics NZ data to road test viability of public provision.
    • Introduce legislation to support the integration of centres into a public system.
    • Implement new categories for funding systems that incentivise quality public early childhood education.
    • Progress on fair pay agreements (i.e. bargaining rules and dispute resolution processes) and ratification and enforcement of fair pay agreements.
    • Implementing existing and new accountability frameworks including ELI, progress on pay equity claims, NZQA recognition of indigenous qualifications.
    • Introduce legislation to include Te Whāriki as a requirement under the Education Act 1989.