NZ ECEC providers warn of fee hikes as the country struggles with ECT shortage
Early childhood education and care (ECEC) service providers in New Zealand have spoken out about the challenges in covering wage costs for relief early childhood teachers (ECTs) as “a desperate teacher shortage bites”, local news source The New Zealand Herald has reported.
The struggles for services to maintain the presence of ECTs within their centres by using relief staff may lead to services needing to increase fees to cover costs, owing to the competitive nature of the job market for ECTs in the country. Many centres, the Herald said, are paying over $45 an hour for relief teachers, well above the award wage of $32 an hour.
The Herald reports four early childhood sector groups as requesting an urgent meeting with New Zealand Education Minister Chris Hipkins to ask for additional funding to cover the mounting costs, and to avoid a fee hike for parents, which they believe is inevitable without support from the Government.
The problem may be further exacerbated by talks held this week, in which the NZ Education Institute, a New Zealand union for Kindergarten teachers, sought an 11 per cent pay rise, to be rolled out over three years, to bring ECT wages in line with primary teaching counterparts, who recently received a pay increase, effective 1 July.
Speaking with the Herald, the Early Childhood Council (ECC) Chief Executive Peter Reynolds noted that the free market environment of ECEC in New Zealand meant that wages were set by supply and demand “and right now the shortage of supply of teachers means they can set their own terms”.
Declining to name specific centres, Mr Reynolds said some sites were being forced to close at times where staff could not be found to meet required ratios.
“It would be wrong for me to put a number to it, but it’s an increasing number,” he told the Herald.
“There are some services that are closing permanently. There are services being monitored by the Ministry of Education that are being told they are breaching the regulations, therefore their licence will be pulled,” he said.
Mr Hipkins has previously acknowledged “a clear tightening of teacher supply in the early learning sector, although the impact on individual services is not known to the Ministry of Education as most service operate independently”.
“I’ve recently met with representatives of the sector and have invited them to present me with a detailed breakdown of the key issues as a means of facilitating further talks,” the Herald quoted him as saying.
“Overall, the Government wants a more planned approach to establishing new services, greater support and increased monitoring. We are working on a workforce strategy for education to build a strong, culturally competent education workforce that drives a world-leading, learner focused, education system for the future.
“More immediately, we’ve put ECE teachers on the skills shortage list and invested $135 million into attracting more teachers, which includes increased funding rates for ECE teacher training providers.”