Does he stand by his statement that “86,000 children will definitely get 20 free hours under Labour”; if so, by what date?
Yes. Nearly 67,000 children are already benefiting from the Labour-led Government’s policy of 20 hours’ free early childhood education, and that number will continue to rise as the policy rolls out in the months ahead.
Does the Minister appreciate that when he said 86,000 children would definitely get access to 20 free hours, most parents assumed that that access would be in July 2007; what happened to the 27,000 kids who are left out during that month?
At the time that that number was articulated, there were 86,000 3 to 4-year-olds in early childhood centres. That number has now risen to around 92,000. I imagine the eligible number will continue to rise, and we will fund to that number.
How many children will be worse off if the policy of 20 hours’ free early childhood education is abolished?
Almost 67,000 children currently are benefiting from this policy, and, of course, those numbers will continue to rise in the months ahead. That translates into probably more than 100,000 parents facing fee rises if this policy is cut, and into restrictions on fees if it is done away with. That is a lot of parents, and that is a lot of centres. Right now, the one question they want an answer to is where does the National Party stand on this policy.
How much are parents actually saving under the 20 free hours policy: is it the $90 a week that the Prime Minister pre-election said parents would save, is it the $60 a week that the Minister is currently using as a figure, or is it the fewer than $20 a week that New Zealand Kindergartens is saying parents are actually saving under this policy?
As I told journalists yesterday, we will know more information when we can audit all of the sector after one financial year. But I have heard a range of figures. For example, I have heard people say they will save $30, $35, $60, and up to $90. There is a wide range of savings out there in the sector. That is why the policy is so popular, and that is why all of those parents want to know what Katherine Rich’s policy is on 20 hours’ free early childhood education.
Why is there a big gap between the pre-election rhetoric, when the Prime Minister told parents they would save $90 a week, and what is being said this week with the New Zealand Kindergartens saying that parents are actually saving less than $20 a week; is it like the big gap in rhetoric between what the Minister is telling Massey University in private and what he is telling the newspapers in public?
There is never any gap between rhetoric and action when the Prime Minister is involved.
How many early childhood education centres have opted in to the 20 hours free policy, and can the Minister confirm that centres are listed on the ministry’s website as having opted in when they have not, as happened in the case of Tinytown Learning Centre in Pakuranga, whose name was taken off the website yesterday only after a number of complaints were made; are any of the Minister’s figures factual?
The ministry stands by all of its figures. I think we began with 1,703, and since 26 June, when we counted the number of services, 73 more services have joined. I expect that that number will continue to rise.
Is it not correct that at this stage up to 66,800 children might get 20 free hours—but, of course, they will not be free—but the Minister is not sure of that number, and that 1,776 centres have opted in but the Minister’s own website tells a completely different story; is it not true that the only thing we can be sure of is that at least 10,000 children in New Zealand are not accessing any early childhood education, at all, and this policy has not helped them in the slightest?