Labour would introduce a minimum qualification requirement for all early childhood educators (ECEs), seeking to curb the rapid growth of taxpayer-subsidised nannies and au pairs.

The party's education spokesman Chris Hipkins says early childhood funding should be focused on boosting participation in quality, free services, and ensuring value for money.

"Instead it is going on subsidies towards nannies and au pairs for those who can afford to make that choice, while children from low-income families still top the statistics for non-participation," he said.

Mr Hipkins' comments follow a Herald report from the weekend which revealed rapid growth in the home-based sector, with a record number of children - 25,000 - now in government-subsidised services which don't require educators to have any qualifications.

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If Labour was elected, it would restore the target of having fully-qualified teachers in early childhood education, Mr Hipkins said.

It would also seek to introduce a minimum qualification for home-based educators.

The last Labour government brought in 20 hours free ECE for 3 and 4-year-olds in its final term. When National was elected in 2008 it kept the policy, but cut the move towards a 100 per cent qualified workforce, instead aiming to have 98 per cent of children attending by 2016.