5 Dec 2023

Over 1000 ECE services sign up to pay parity with kindergarten teachers despite funding deficit

1:41 pm on 5 December 2023
Group of kids 3-4 years old with toy musical instruments. Early music education in kindergarten

Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand general manager people and capability Carolyn Mitchell says she is surprised so many services have agreed to full parity because government funding will not cover the cost. Photo: 123RF

More than a third of education and care services have agreed to pay their teachers the same rates as kindergarten teachers.

But their teachers are likely to have parity with their kindergarten peers for only one month.

Ministry of Education figures showed 1006 services signed up to full pay parity rates payable from 1 December.

A further 1081 agreed to "extended parity", which was just short of full parity for senior teachers and managers, and 508 committed to parity only for teachers on the first six steps of the 11-step salary scale.

Services that agreed to the higher pay rates would receive higher subsidies from the Ministry of Education.

However, employers said the extra money was paid as an estimated average rate which disadvantaged centres with high proportions of experienced and therefore higher-paid teachers.

Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand general manager people and capability Carolyn Mitchell said she was surprised so many services agreed to full parity because government funding would not cover the cost and many had been uncertain about it.

"There is a massive deficit and so these services are going to have to find money to fund the deficit and that deficit is widening by the day so I did find it really surprising, I did expect to see far fewer employers opting into full parity," she said.

Mitchell said teachers would enjoy full parity with kindergarten teachers only for a month because kindergarten teachers were due to receive another pay rise in January which early learning services would not be funded for.

"The Ministry of Education will increase the funding provided to the kindergartens but the rest of the sector they won't get increased funding, so when they're opting in to full parity it won't actually be full parity any longer. So they'll get full parity for one month," she said.

RNZ has previously reported that the government underestimated the cost of passing on school and kindergarten teachers' pay rises to early childhood teachers by $253 million over four years.

Educational Institute national secretary Stephanie Mills said the number of centres that had opted for full parity was good, but could be better.

"What is obvious is that the funding model is outdated, broken and incentivises a race to the bottom," she said.

Mills said the "attestation" system of centres agreeing to give their teachers pay parity in return for higher funding rates should be more tightly controlled.

"There also needs to be improved transparency for paying kaiako salaries, at present the attestation forms are a high trust model," she said.

She said the new government should commit to pay parity for all early childhood kaiako.