Children with the most to gain from quality early childhood education (ECE) risk missing out as a report finds Aotearoa has some of the most expensive childcare in the world, Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft says.
UNICEF today released is new report Where do Rich Countries Stand on Childcare? which ranks Aotearoa New Zealand 33rd out of 41 wealthy countries.
While New Zealand was ranked near the top for quality, due to high rates of teacher qualifications and low teacher to child ratios, it was one of three countries identified as having extremely expensive childcare. This, and lower levels of paid parental leave, dragged our overall ranking towards the bottom.
“We want all children, regardless of their family income, to have time with their parents when they’re little, and access to the kind of early childhood education that sets them up for life,” Commissioner Becroft says.
“Evidence shows that children from lower income families have the most to gain from high quality ECE which has life-long positive impacts.
“There is less to be gained from having one of the world’s highest quality ECE if its unaffordable for many.
“Parents should be enabled to make the best choices for their children by having the right mix of support in their child’s early years: High enough incomes to stay home when they need to, paid time off work, and affordable high quality ECE.
“In this year’s budget the Government pegged the income thresholds to quality for childcare assistance to wage growth. This prevents the assistance to families from eroding which is great, but doesn’t address the fact that it is inadequate to start with,” Commissioner Becroft says.
Assistant Māori Commissioner for Children Glenis Philip Barbara added that cost and other barriers preventing whānau from choosing kohanga reo and other forms of ECE also needed to be addressed.
“Whānau choose kohanga reo, for example, for access te reo, and te ao Māori. This brings enormous life-long benefits to mokopuna and their whanau. Any barriers to this should be removed.
The Commissioners said reducing the cost of ECE could both reduce child and whānau poverty and ensure fair and equitable access to high quality education.
Extending paid parental leave and increasing the Family Tax Credit would help ensure parents were able to spend time with their children in the early years and develop crucial bonds essential for the best lives.
“If we really value tamariki, Aotearoa should be aiming to be at the top of these rankings, not down towards the bottom,” they said.