Did he sign off on the licensing criteria for early childhood education and care centres and the licensing criteria for kōhanga reo on 14 July 2008; if so, does he believe that all of the criteria are necessary and should be rigorously enforced?
Why is the Minister insisting that centres go to the expense of building a separate sleeping room that they cannot afford and that many of the parents do not want, when the Minister himself is saying to centres that it is all right if parents want their children not to sleep in the room, but they need to have the rooms so that parents can have the choice not to use them—in other words, centres have to build the rooms, but they do not actually have to use them?
Because I believe in parent choice. I believe that parents should have the choice whether they want a secure, safe, quiet area for their children. I thought that that member and her party believed in parental choice.
What reports has the Minister seen about changes to early childhood education licensing criteria?
I have seen many ill-informed comments from National’s spokesperson on early childhood education, Paula Bennett, including outrageous and silly comments that the new criteria would force Sunday schools to close. That was said by the same member who has railed against our very successful 20 hours free scheme. But in a now familiar National Party U-turn, she says that National will adopt the policy but, of course, it will not include the word “free”; it just will not be free any more.
When can playcentres and kōhanga reo expect that the criteria for the very successful 20 free hours’ early childhood education programme will change so that playcentres and kōhanga reo can also expect to receive the 20 free hours’ early childhood education programmes?
Kōhanga reo already qualify. About 280 already qualify because of the percentage of qualified teachers in them, and about half have taken up the 20 hours free scheme. As far as playcentres are concerned, 20 free hours is about lowering the cost. There is very little cost involved in playcentres, so why on earth would we extend it to them? We already provide substantial support to playcentres for the great work they do, but they are parent-led, not teacher-led, centres.
With regard to separate sleep areas, does the Minister understand that different cultures have different practices for how and where their babies sleep, and did he consult his Associate Minister of Education or his Māori or Pacific Island colleagues to gain an understanding that isolating babies is seen as unsafe practice for many non-European cultures?
As I emphasised in my initial answer, this is about parental choice. Where an unsafe situation occurs, such as that which happened in Albany recently, where a centre had a separate sleeping area—indeed, as 90 percent of existing centres have already—and children were sleeping in a corridor, parents complained and we sorted it out. It is about parental choice, and it is about having a secure, safe area for children to sleep in. I would have thought that the National Party would support such a move.
How can the Minister claim to support parental choice, when, as his answers to previous questions have showed, he has still failed to extend the 20 hours free policy to parent-led centres rather than exclusively to teacher-led centres?
Because 20 free hours is about lowering the cost for parents. Indeed, Statistics New Zealand say that in the year that the 20 hours free scheme has been in place—Labour’s scheme, where free means free—costs have dropped for parents by about 30 percent. Where there is very little cost, such as in playcentres, why on earth would we introduce the scheme?
How can the Minister say that he supports parental choice, when we are getting reports that some centres will have to close down because they cannot and do not have the room to build sleep areas that they will not have to use, and when they cannot afford $50,000 to get separate rooms built, but the Minister is insisting that they be built but do not have to be used; and how does that support parental choice?
I am surprised that that member has the cheek to rise in this House and raise the question of credibility. That is the member who went around New Zealand telling people that the Labour Government would close down Sunday schools, which, of course, we had no intention of doing—it was absurd. This is about parental choice. That member was on television recently talking about her new grandchild. If she wants her new grandchild to sleep in a room that is secure, safe, and quiet—because all research shows that it is really important for children from the age of 0 to 2 to have quiet, uninterrupted sleep for proper brain development—she should have a choice for sleeping arrangements in the centre that that grandchild is sent to. I would have thought she would have supported this.
I seek leave to table a letter to one of the early childhood groups from the Minister, where he outlines for them that they do actually have to build the sleeping room but there is no proposal to regulate the services practice in relation—
I seek leave to table a document with extensive research about why it is really important for children from the age of zero to 2 to have uninterrupted, quiet sleep.
I seek leave to table a document from Te Kohanga Reo National Trust, amongst others, which clearly states that separate sleep rooms are culturally inappropriate—