Calls for an inquiry into the quality of early childhood education have been met with support from opposition parties, but the Government says it isn't warranted.

Those involved in former reviews were hesitant to back a further investigation, but only because they said the minister already knows what has to be done and should get to work, rather than delaying changes further.

The teachers' union NZEI said it wants an inquiry after a Herald investigation that revealed several government bodies have all raised concerns about quality within the sector and urged changes on the basis that poor-quality care is harmful.

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Critics say they believe the erosion in quality is partially linked to the rise in profit-driven childcare, which means less money for quality teaching and provision.

But Education Review Office figures showed that while kindergarten gets better reviews, there was little difference between community-based and private educare centres.

In calling for an inquiry, NZEI national president Louise Green said there was no evidence that market forces provide quality education in the compulsory public education sector, but the Government refused to step in.

Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins backed an inquiry, saying leaving it to the market was "irresponsible".

"[Early childhood providers] receive hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies every year. That's money that should be going into quality education and yet increasingly it's being diverted to shareholder dividends," Mr Hipkins said.

Green MP Catherine Delahunty said there needed to be a plan so that quality centres were in the right places.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said New Zealand had always had a mix of early childhood education providers.

"The Government does not dictate whether they should be privately or community owned. Its interest is the quality of the service provided, not who owns it."


Members of a 2011 taskforce and two subsequent sector advisory groups said they still had concerns but weren't sure an inquiry was best.

The groups recommended a long list of changes, most of which are yet to be fully addressed.

"We got very little response to those two working groups," said Nancy Bell, the head of Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood NZ.

She said although ERO and the ministry were now working together more closely, they had hoped for better regulation around group sizes, ratios and teacher qualifications.