Greens: Extend free early childhood education

By Derek Cheng

The Green Party wants 20 hours' free early childhood education extended to 2-year-olds.

Co-leader Metiria Turei announced the key election social policy this morning, aimed to ensure "that every child has enough to thrive".

The first pledge is to have up to $95 a week for parents, to put 40,000 more children in early childhood education from the age of 2.

This could also free up parents who want to go back to study, or free up more quality time with children.

The key policy points are:

• Extend the 20 hours free early childhood education subsidy to cover 2-year-olds, at an initial cost of $297 million, rising to $367 million in four years' time.
• Provide $32 million a year to restore funding for 100 per cent qualified teachers

"One in four children lives in poverty, and 205,000 Kiwi kids are now living in severe poverty, and going without the basics," Mrs Turei said.

"The cost of ECE [early childhood education] in New Zealand is too high. According to a 2010 OECD study, New Zealand working families pay 28 percent of their net income on childcare - the fourth highest percentage of family income in the group.

"Extending 20 hours free ECE to 2-year-olds will make a real financial difference to thousands of families. We estimate that families with 2-year-olds in ECE could be up to $95 a week better off under our policy."

She said about two thirds of all 2-year-olds were currently enrolled in early childhood education but their parents missed out on the '20 Hours' subsidy given to 3- and 4-year-olds.

"This is an investment in families and our kids' education and in reducing poverty.

"As part of that, we've already announced plans to build 20 new ECE centres onsite at low decile schools."

She said the Greens would release the costings of all its policies after the Government opened its pre-election finances.

Amanda Coulston, general manager of Wellington Kindergartens, endorsed the policy.

"Research the world over, and common sense, shows that the youngest, most vulnerable children need to have the highest qualified teachers."

She said a centre with fully qualified teachers was like the All Blacks fielding their best side.

"We wouldn't put 12 really good players and three really passionate supporters out there if we want to win the World Cup."

- NZ Herald

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