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Associate Education Minister David Seymour announces first red tape cuts for early childhood education sector

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Associate Education Minister David Seymour has pared back the requirements around qualifications for supervisors in early childhood centres, saying they risk driving up costs and making it more difficult for some centres to operate.

Seymour is in charge of the early childhood sector and has promised to do a funding review, including on pay parity for early childhood teachers, as well as a red-tape review of the regulations that affect the sector under his other role as Regulations Minister.

This morning he set out two changes, including scrapping network management provisions that require Ministry of Education sign-off to establish a new early learning service.

Those provision have been in place since February 2023 and require providers who want to set up new centres to apply to the Ministry of Education for approval. Seymour said it allowed the Government to say whether the centre was needed and where new ECE services should be.

“Providers and parents are best placed to decide where early learning services should be established. Where there’s demand from parents, providers will follow,” Seymour said.

He said the changes made setting up new services complex and inhibited competition.

Seymour was also proposing to revoke the National Statement on the Network of Licensed Early Childhood Services as soon as possible, to make granting approvals for new services faster while the legislation around network management was repealed. Consultation on this proposal opens today and runs until May 5, 2024.

The second change was halting a change due to take effect in August this year that would require staff in supervisory roles to obtain a Full (Category One or Two) Practising Certificate.

Seymour said teachers would still need a recognised teaching qualification and practising certificate, but the new requirement for there to be a more highly qualified supervisor on hand at all times risked resulting in higher fees and reduced operating hours due to a lack of fully certificated teachers.

He said services in rural areas and lower socio-economic areas were most likely to suffer because of staffing and funding challenges.

Seymour again flagged that the ECE sector would be first in line for a full review of the regulations in the sector to try to pare back any unnecessary red tape.

“We need to strip unnecessary compliance and cost so our early learning professionals can be focused on education and care of children. After all, costs cannot all be absorbed – they eventually land on the parents.”

Seymour said his moves were “a down payment” on the upcoming review, saying he was moving early on two relatively simple changes that would make it easier for the sector.

Seymour was also asked about his review of the Healthy Lunches programme in schools and said he believed it was possible to deliver the programme for less money in a way that still delivered lunches for the children who actually needed them.

He said the programme had not been funded by the previous government from 2025/26 and so the new Government was having to fund it.

On public sector cuts, he said despite the increase in staff in the Ministry of Education, school attendance had gone backwards. He was not involved in the restructure at the ministry as associate minister, but said that was up to the Secretary of Education to deliver on.

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