At least 80 per cent of teachers at early childhood centres will have to be qualified if Labour is in Government, the party said today.

Labour will also fully fund centres where every teacher is qualified - something which it says National has put an end to.

The ECE policy would require an investment of $193 million, which Labour leader Andrew Little said would be paid for by scrapping National's proposed tax cuts.

Ministry of Education data shows that about 74 per cent of ECE teachers held a qualification in 2014.


Labour would require all ECE centres to lift the proportion of qualified teachers to at least 80 per cent within three years.

Little said National had reduced funding for ECE centres which had 100 per cent qualified teachers and frozen per-child funding rates since 2010. That had caused ECE fees to rise by 25 per cent, he said.

"Labour will ... end National's funding freeze and in the future we'll increase funding rates to at least account for inflation each year," Little said.

Labour's education spokesman Chris Hipkins said the party would support new ECEs in "low-provision" areas by awarding establishment grants. In other areas, ECEs would only be funded if there was an established need, he said.

The new policy was applauded by unions. NZEI said the plan to restore funding for centres which employed 100 per cent qualified staff was an "enormous relief". Centres had struggled to maintain their quality after funding was cut in 2010, president Lynda Stuart said.

Labour announced earlier this week it would ditch National's tax cuts - worth up to $20 a week - and channel most of the money into boosting Working for Families and subsidies for families with newborns.

It estimated that middle income families would be $48 better off a week under its Families Package, compared with $26 a week under National's $2 billion package announced in the Budget.

National's campaign chair Steven Joyce said Labour was "selling the ECE sector short", as the Government had put $390m into it over the next four years.


Funding had nearly doubled since National came into power, he said.