Opening of early childhood centres highlights issues in a sector already under pressure

5 October 2021

The union for early childhood teachers says that the Government’s announcement of opening ECE centres tomorrow to bubbles of 10 tamariki urgently needs further detail on how it will work, and how staff and children can stay safe.

“Teachers are keen to get back to work and reconnect with tamariki, but we’ve had no ministry advice about what back-to-work Covid testing would involve for staff, or how centres should manage the situation if they can’t separate their centre into bubbles of 10 for all enrolled tamariki,” says NZEI Te Riu Roa President, Liam Rutherford.

Rutherford says that the pressures in the ECE sector also mean service operators may have differing priorities when it comes to health and safety.

“There is a concern amongst our members that the health and wellbeing of kaiako and tamariki will not be the number one priority for every service operator. This is because our broken ECE funding system means that profit for owners and shareholders is often the overriding consideration.

“It’s vital that ECE staff be involved in the health and safety planning in their centres as we move into the uncharted territory of opening up when there is Covid-19 circulating in the community. We encourage our members to come to their union for support if they have health and safety concerns or if employers are mandating their own rules and requirements without including staff in the decision-making process.”

Rutherford says the pressures around reopening again highlight the urgent need for change in a sector that is underfunded and struggling to recruit and retain teachers, starting with pay parity for ECE teachers with their kindergarten colleagues, who earn up to 49% more for doing the exact same job.

“On Saturday November 6 we are going to get #LOUD 4 ECE with a day of action around the country. We are making it clear to the Ministry of Education we need a firm commitment of pay parity and fixing this sector.

“We know that the first five years for tamariki are the most important and ECE teachers play a crucial role in this but instead we are seeing huge numbers of teachers leaving the sector and very low numbers of people going into ECE teacher training,” says Rutherford.

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