What steps are under way to provide New Zealand families with 20 hours of free early childhood education?
Coincidentally, I happen to have a similar answer to that to the previous question. In April early childhood services began ordering forms for parents to claim their free hours, and are now starting to have meetings with parents and to talk about the policy. The initial applications from services to take up free early childhood education are now making their way through the Ministry of Education, and the signs are looking good. This will result in tens of thousands of New Zealand families receiving 20 hours’ free early childhood education from 1 July, and as the policy rolls out over the next year I am confident that even more services will offer that policy to parents.
What feedback has the Minister been getting about the free early childhood education policy?
The New Zealand Childcare Association says it is “an important step in the direction of publicly funded ECE and creates a level playing field where parents can choose the service they want, regardless of cost”. The Waikato Kindergarten Association calls it a wonderful initiative. The Lower Hutt Kindergarten Association says it is a fantastic opportunity to reduce costs to families. I was pleased to see yesterday that the Auckland Kindergarten Association, with over 5,500 children, is taking up free early childhood education. The Ministry of Education reports positive feedback from the 165 face-to-face meetings with services around the country, and I do want to repeat that I am delighted with the progress that Paula Bennett is making in promoting this policy. As I said before, after her visit to Whakatāne the numbers went up.
What sort of death wish does the Minister have, in arranging a patsy question to himself on the subject of 20 free hours, when the decision of the Auckland Kindergarten Association to implement his policy is the most reluctant so far, with its press release today using phrases like “reluctantly agreed”, “still real concerns”, “continual review”, and “If the financial position of the AKA is threatened, we will seriously consider withdrawing from this policy.”—it is hardly a ringing endorsement?