When will the Government respond to the Early Childhood Education Taskforce Report that was released on 1 June 2011?
When she made the statement on 1 July about the release of the Taskforce on Early Childhood Education report that “any proposals for major changes … will form part of the election campaign.”, did she mean that the work done by officials in preparing the Government’s response to the task force would form the National Party election policy on early childhood education?
Will she commit to keeping all the existing subsidies at current levels for 20 hours’ early childhood education if her Government is re-elected?
I thank the member for her confidence that National will be re-elected. If there are going to be any changes to the funding system—that includes 20 hours’ early childhood education—it will take some time. I have said in this House, and in public, on a number of occasions that this Government supports 20 hours’ early childhood education. We have expanded it to include parent-led centres. If we saw any changes, we would see 20 hours’ early childhood education retained, including fee controls.
I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was very specifically about keeping all existing subsidies at current levels for 20 hours’ early childhood education. The Minister has made a statement committing to 20 hours, so she is prepared to do that. My question was about existing subsidies at current levels.
I invite the member, though, to reflect on what she has asked. She has asked the current Minister whether this current Minister is prepared to commit a future Minister of Education following an election. The Minister in answering has indicated, it sounded to me, what might have been the Government’s approach to this issue. But there is no way the member can expect a Minister just prior to an election to commit to something like that when this Government may or may not be the Government after the election and this Minister may or may not be the Minister of Education after the election. So I think to ask her to commit exactly is a bit unreasonable.
Does she regret, then, promising to keep all existing subsidies for early childhood education prior to the last election but then proceeding to cut two of those subsidies, causing parents’ costs to rise by nearly 12 percent in 1 year alone for early childhood education?
As the Minister of Education in a John Key - led Government I am delighted that we have focused on increasing participation in early childhood education. We have increased the funding to early childhood education. We have made some changes to the funding mechanisms, but we did maintain our promise to retain 20 hours, to retain the subsidies, and to retain the fee controls.
I seek leave to table the National Party’s election promise to keep existing subsidies—