Teacher shortages and pay parity impact on Early Childhood Education

MEDIA RELEASE: For immediate release

Early Childhood Education (ECE) is in crisis, prompting a group of multi-centre early childhood education owners to take urgent action.

The newly formed group, who call themselves Advocates for Early Learning Excellence, comprise nearly one quarter of the ECE sector. Their main objectives are to seek pay parity in line with increased funding and address teacher shortages.

The ECE sector was sidelined in the latest round of new minimum pay requirements and appears to have been forgotten by the government, as they focus on primary and secondary school pay increases, and teacher shortages.

At present, there is an 18.5 percent difference in pay scales between kindergarten and early childhood education teachers. Therefore, those with early childhood degrees will naturally seek more lucrative employment in government funded kindergartens. This makes it more difficult for early childhood providers.

Spokesperson for Advocates for Early Learning Excellence and Owner and Director of New Shoots Early Childhood Centres, Michelle Pratt, says ‘we are calling on the government to change its subsidy to include all Early Childhood Educators, so that they have pay parity in line with funding as kindergarten, primary and secondary school teachers.’

‘Low-decile communities suffer the most under the current funding regime,’ said Pratt, who is concerned that the number of teachers holding a tertiary degree within Early Childhood Education Centres has dropped. ‘The only way we are going to fix this is by increased government subsidies.’

CEO of The Early Childhood Council, Peter Reynolds, has been lobbying to get ECE on the skill shortage list for more than two years. In early 2019 he was successful, but since then, little has been done by the government to immediately gain more skilled teachers into the sector.

Director of Provincial Education, Katie Phillipps, says ‘Minimum wage increases are compressing wages for the sector. Once the minimum wage reaches $20.00, the minimum wage for an ECE teacher will be only $2.00 above the minimum wage. After a three-year degree this is inadequate. The Teachers who care for our youngest children, typically from three months to five years, play a significant role in the future of our children. These formative years are critical foundation stones of a child’s development, which deserve our urgent attention and investment.’

National spokesperson for Early Childhood Education, MP Nicola Willis has just completed a survey on teacher shortages and is encouraging a push for an overseas recruitment drive, as we’ve seen in the primary and secondary school sectors.

Advocates for Early Learning Excellence are calling for a reform of NZQA’s overseas assessments to better cross-credit overseas degrees, making it easier for overseas teachers’ qualifications to be recognised in New Zealand. ‘Currently, the cross-crediting approval process makes it difficult for overseas teachers to get permits to teach here. The red tape is onerous, and the requirements are too strict,’ said Michele Pratt, Owner and Director of New Shoots Early Childhood Centres.

The formation of the ‘Advocates for Early Learning Excellence’ marks the first time a group of this size has been formed to address issues in the ECE sector. They are calling for action and are coming up with solutions to issues.

Among the measures they recommend are:

  • Increase funding into the Early Education sector
  • In line with improved funding, increase the minimum attestation rates for early childhood teachers, to ensure govt funding goes direct to teachers
  • Kickstart efforts to attract more into ECE training, including welcoming back those who have taken a break from teaching and improving pathways for certification of experienced yet unqualified teachers. By, for example, ensuring scholarships and incentives for teaching-training are not unfairly restricted to primary and secondary training programmes.
  • Speed up the Teaching Council registration process by fixing unacceptable delays in police vetting.
  • Streamline the registration process for ECE-trained parents returning to work.
  • Allow primary trained teachers working in ECE to be counted as “persons responsible” and remove red-tape that prevents them opening and closing ECE centres (see point one in Editors Notes below).
  • Ensure the Teaching Council, Ministry of Education and NZQA give urgency to work to recognise ECE qualifications from around the world.




  1. Currently, qualified Primary school teachers can go and work in an Early Childcare Centre (ECC), but unless they have done the three year early childcare education degree, they are not permitted to open or close a centre which prevents them from getting jobs as centres need staff who can open and close the business.
  2. ECCs claiming government subsidies are currently required to pay qualified teachers who hold a three-year tertiary degree, a minimum of $21.87 per hour. This is only marginally higher than the minimum wage.
  3. There is either a 50% or 80% funding band for early childhood educators. If you have 80% of your teachers in an ECC who are qualified and have the three-year degree, then you meet the requirements to get funded as an 80% funding band. If you have only 50% of your teachers with tertiary degrees, then you only qualify as a 50% funding band. Everyone wants over 80% of teachers on the floor to be qualified and degree-holding ECC, otherwise the quality will drop.
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