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Pay Parity Steering Group

The founding members of the pay parity steering group (PPSG) were Karen McPherson, Sarah Alexander, and David Haynes.

Lead advocate and advisor on why Pay Parity for all ECE teachers is vital (image: The petition presentation for the House of Representatives)

Had it not been for formation of the PPSG and the efforts of PPSG members, pay parity would not have jumped onto the political agenda and become the major policy and election issue that it is now. By running a considered and focused campaign, not with placards, but with knowledge and compassion, the PPSG educated officials and others on the need for and urgency of providing pay parity for all ECE qualified and certificated teachers working in ECE. The PPSG diplomatically kept the focus on pay parity even as the Minister of Education suggested that teachers should join the union if they wanted better pay (and even as NZEI sought to sabotage the pay parity petition of James Lochead-MacMillan and argue that the PPSG was misguided in going for pay parity and not supporting their campaign for pay equity).

Members of the PPSG in 2023 are:

  • Karen McPherson – qualified ECE teacher, Taupo
  • Bethany O’Hagan – qualified ECE teacher and centre supervisor, Kāpiti Coast
  • Francine Little – qualified ECE teacher 2IC, Lower Hutt
  • James Lochead-McMillan – qualified ECE teacher, Auckland
  • Bonnie Te Ara Henare – eduprenuer, specialising in innovative learning and educational leadership (Educational Services (Teachers) Award in 2020, for her work advocating for increasing pay rates for teachers by demonstrating excellence and equity in preschool within long day care settings)
  • David Haynes -treasurer and vice chairperson of a community ECE centre, Whitianga (background in running several complex businesses and former Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Management and Member of the Institute of Directors).
  • Dr Sarah Alexander – chief advisor to the Office of Early Childhood Education

You can find articles and videos in the Big Issues – Pay Parity area of this website.

You are welcome to join our Facebook Group for discussions and updates on pay parity.

What does pay parity mean?

Pay parity means a pay scale reflecting teaching qualifications and the same professional certification process as teachers in schools. Currently only teachers in kindergarten associations kindergartens have full pay parity.

Our objective

To see that the pay of ECE qualified and certificated teachers working in publicly-funded licensed ECE services is increased to be on par with school teacher salaries.

Achieving pay parity is simple!

The Government and the Ministry of Education must immediately:

  1. Stop making excuses, delaying, and preventing teacher-led centres from receiving the same level of funding as kindergarten associations are paid. (Learn more about the Ministry of Education advice to government in 2011 to restrict salary cost adjustments to kindergartens). Attestation is a method that is available to the Ministry of Education to ensure centre accountability – teachers need not be covered by a collective employment agreement for centres to be legally bound to pay at pay parity rates.
  2. Ensure Playcentres, Nga Kōhanga Reo and Home-based services are supported with funding to provide pay parity to the qualified ECE teachers they employ.

Work also needs to be commenced on developing a long-term solution for the management of ECE teacher salaries across the sector. The Pay Parity Steering Group recommends the Ministry of Education move toward direct payment of ECE teacher salaries through a centralised pay roll system as happens with schools.


  • 1980, July – The State Services Commission Working Group report “Early Childhood Care and Education” recommended to the Minister of State Services that “There be a reallocation of the responsibilities between the Departments of Education and Social Welfare in regard to child care centres” (bringing childcare under the same administrative umbrella as kindergartens), and “The principle of equitable funding for childcare be accepted by the Government and a funding policy developed.
  • 1987 – Separate training of teachers for kindergarten at Teachers’ Colleges and training for childcare workers was abolished with the introduction of integrated (ECE) teacher education.
  • 1988 – The Education to be More Report (The Meade Report) recommended changing the way ECE services were funded and establishing standards of quality for all service providers: “Kindergarten is currently funded at a higher level than other services, and given the criteria for quality that the working party has agreed on, it follows that the level of Bulk Funding should be set a higher rate still. This will provide for the necessary improvements in the kindergarten service as well as establishing an adequate funding base for other services” (1988 Education to be More Report, p. viii).
  • 1990, Dec – The law on kindergartens providing free access to preschool education for any child regardless of their family’s ability to pay was changed. Now every kindergarten (whether or not it is, or is known or described as, a free kindergarten) was allowed to charge parents for their child’s attendance.
  • 1993, 1 March – Bulk funding of kindergarten teachers’ salaries was introduced (this had ben announced on Budget night 1991). Traditionally kindergarten teachers were employed and paid by the Dept/Ministry of Education through a central payroll system. Each kindergarten association received an operational grant to help with the general running experiences of their kindergartens. The change to Bulk Funding was the beginning of the government devolving its responsibility as a partner in the ownership of kindergartens. Associations now received a ‘grant-in-aid’ to cover both the wages and operational costs and it was left up to them to determine how they used this money. At the time, staffing costs accounted for approximately 80% of the overall budget (NZFKU Memorandum, 1991).
  • 1997 – The National Government removed kindergarten teachers from the State Sector Act.
  • 2000, 13 March – The Labour Government returned Kindergarten teachers to the State Sector Act. Minister Mallard said that “the National Government was trying to wriggle out of the shame of refusing to fund the pay increases negotiated by the State Services Commission. By doing so, they removed a very important benchmark for the funding of all early childhood education.” “The Government owns the majority of kindergartens and there is certainly a public perception that we are a major partner in the kindergarten sector and therefore have a greater responsibility for encouraging quality.” However, today the Ministry of Education says the Minister was wrong – in response to an Official Information Request on the ownership of kindergartens the Ministry replied: “The government did not own any kindergartens in March 2000” (OIA reply dated 7/09/2021). What we do know to be true is that kindergartens were traditionally always funded at higher levels and part of the public education system (under the old Dept of Education system).
  • 2001, 19 Sept – Minister Mallard set up a ‘Kindergarten Teachers’ Pay Parity Working Group’. He said: “We are well on track to keeping our promise … for phasing in pay parity to be completed during the first term in government.”
  • 2002, 1 July – ECE teachers in Kindergartens were granted pay parity with teachers in public schools.
  • 2002 – Targets for 80% qualified and registered teachers in teacher-led services by 2010 and 100% by 2012 were established.

Kindergartens and Education and Care Centres Became Equals for the first time under a New Funding System

  • 2005, 1 April – A new ECE funding system changed the way the Ministry of Education funded ECE services. New funding rates were introduced “The new rates are designed to treat all teacher-led services, private and non-profit on an equal basis”(Hon Trevor Mallard, press release from the Beehive 24/11/2004). Kindergartens were no longer funded at higher rates to education and care centres. Instead higher funding rates were applied based on employing a higher proportion of registered early childhood education qualified teachers. Also, all-day licenced services (ratio of 1 adult to 10 children 2 years and over) had a higher rate of funding compared to centres that operated sessions only and closed at lunch-times (ratio of 1 adult to 15 children 2 years and over).
  • 2005 – The ‘Person Responsible’ in an ECE service was now required to have a recognised qualification in ECE teaching and be a registered teacher.
  • 2008 – The Education (ECE Services) Regulations, 2008 replaced previous separate regulations for free kindergartens and childcare centres. Kindergartens and childcare centres were now ‘early childhood education’ centres and required to meet the same rules and regulations, including for staffing, curriculum, and premises.
    • 50% ratioed staff in teacher-led centres were now required to be ECE qualified and registered teachers.
  • 2009 – Demand for qualified ECE teachers soared – “it was a good time to be an ECE teacher” due to the government setting targets to increase the percentage of qualified and registered teachers in the sector. Also private and non-kindergarten community centres were able to compete with Kindergarten Associations on teacher salaries as there was no difference in funding between kindergartens and other education and care centres. With higher pay rates for qualified ECE teachers, enrolments in ECE teacher training also surged.
    • The 80% ECE qualified registration target in teacher-led centres by 2010 was extended 2012. Minister Tolley said, “I am confident that pushing out the timeframe will reduce the immediate pressure on teacher-led, centre-based ECE services, while easing the demand for registered teachers in the short-term. Currently 50 per cent of staff in teacher-led, centre-based ECE services must have a recognised ECE teaching qualification. On average, 61 per cent of the ECE workforce is qualified.” (to this day the target of 80% ECE qualified and certificated teachers in teacher-led centres has not been met as it was quietly dropped and never implemented by the government)
  • 2010 – The Ministry of Education allowed employers to count primary school trained teachers as qualified to work in ECE for the purpose of funding. The 100% and 80-99% ECE qualified teacher funding bands were scrapped and replaced with a 80%+ band. The target for 100% ECE qualified and registered teachers in teacher-led services was dropped.

Funding to centres cut

  • 2011, 31 Jan – The Ministry of Education advised Minister Tolley to restrict salary cost adjustments in funding only to Kindergarten Associations. It would save $20m per annum and “place greater onus on providers to manage and reduce costs”. This recommendation was formulated by Simon Laube and Natasha Kuka and was presented by Karl Le Quesne to the Minister of Education. The recommendation overlooked negative impacts on future teacher supply, the financial and emotional impact on non-kindergarten teachers and their families, and did not adequately consider how the quality of ECE delivered to children would be affected.
our teacher pay parity poster - staff retention, wages, equity
  • 2011, 1 Feb – The 100% qualified ECE teacher funding rate was dropped for teacher-led centres that were not a sessional licenced kindergarten under the control of a free kindergarten (section 120 of the Education Act 1989).
  • 2011, 9 March – In a cabinet paper Minister Tolley said that “new ECE funding rates for kindergartens will be provided as part of ECE policy proposals for Budget 2011. In the past we have provided equivalent increases to other ECE services through ECE funding rates. This has been on the assumption that changes to kindergarten salaries can affect salaries in other services. I do not consider it value for money to provide additional funding to services that are not legally bound to provide salary increases to their teachers.” (In an OIA response to a question from James Lochead-McMillan, 1 October 2019 the Ministry gives its explanation of the context of the decision back in 2011: “The different funding rate tables for kindergarten and non-kindergarten teacher-led centres that we have today are due to the Government of the day deciding that it would not pass on the higher rates to education and care services if there was no assurance they were paying KTCA level salaries”).
  • 2011, 1 July – Separate funding rate tables for kindergartens and other education and care centres took effect. The funding rates of kindergartens (sessional and all-day licensed) continued to be adjusted to reflect salary cost increases but not other teacher-led centres. For example from 1 July the funding rate for 80%+ ECE qualified and registered teachers was $11.40 per hour per child for all-day kindergartens and $11.25 for other teacher-led centres (it had been $11.12 for all teacher-led centres prior to this change).
    • Teacher redundancies occurred on a large scale as non-kindergarten centres could no longer afford to pay teachers what they were paying them and centres were no longer required to work toward employing 100% qualified ECE teachers.
  • 2019, June – An ECE survey “Should Salary Attestation Rates Be Increased“, showed strong support for all ECE teachers to have pay parity with teachers who worked in primary/ kindergarten (93% of respondents). A small minority of respondents (3%) felt that teacher wages in publicly-funded services should not be dictated but left up to the employer to determine. On the Ministry of Education’s salary attestation requirement and rates, there was strong support for the attestation rates to be increased to the same as kindergartens in return for receiving the same funding as kindergartens (95% of respondents).
  • 2019, 14 July – Dr Sarah Alexander called a national meeting in Wellington to discuss a way forward on teacher pay. The meeting was free, open to anyone (see some video of presentations). See a Stuff article: ‘Teachers are teachers’: Early childhood teachers call for pay parity. NZEI representatives were adamant that they would only pursue a pay equity campaign. Nothing else would do. They claimed that any thought of going for pay parity would be misguided because ECE teachers would be better off under its work to establish a benchmark for pay equity on the basis of gender. After the national meeting on ECE teacher pay, Dr Sarah Alexander requested a meeting with NZEI’s National Secretary, Paul Goulter, to whom she outlined what had happened, and said that there was no ill-will toward NZEI but that she and others felt that it was imperative to aim for pay parity.
  • 2019, 1 Oct – The Early Childhood Pay Parity Campaign book by Pay Parity Steering Group members was published.
  • 2019, 2 Oct – NZEI embarked on a major campaign in the ECE sector, asking everyone to support its call for an 11% pay rise linked to the Early Childhood Collective Agreement. But many centres had already gone away from the existing Early Childhood Education Collective Agreement (ECECA).
  • 2019, 6 Dec – James Lochead-MacMillan, with the Pay Parity Steering Group, presented his more than 15,000 signature strong petition to MP Nicola Willis to give to the House of Representatives (press release: history was made). The petition called for the “Ministry of Education to publicly acknowledge that it values teachers in ECE by immediately addressing pay discrimination.” The petition stated that “the Ministry must, as Dr Sarah Alexander has argued, raise the attestation rates that ECE services must agree to pay all their qualified and certificated teachers to access higher rates of funding for employing certificated teachers. The salary attestation rates should be the same rates as the Ministry of Education has agreed to in the terms of settlement for the KTCA”.
  • 2020, 9 January – The Ministry of Education put through a change of regulation in the ‘Person Responsible” in teacher-led centres, making the role one that a primary school trained teacher could hold. This meant that now centres need not have any ECE qualified teachers working with children for at least part of the day. (Note that the Minister of Education had promised Cabinet that allowing people who were not ECE trained but were trained to teach the primary school curriculum in a school setting with older children to be a Person Responsible in an ECE centre would be a temporary allowance. This decision has yet to be reversed).
  • 2020, 14 May – Minister Hipkins announced that salary attestation would be changed to being based on the KTCA (it was based on the ECECA). The minimum salary centres would be required to pay all their qualified and certificated teachers would be set at the first step of the KTCA base scale (also the same as the first pay step for primary school teachers), taking effect from 1 July 2020.
  • 2020, 26 May – Pay Parity Steering Group members – Dr Sarah Alexander, Tolo Pereira and Bethany O’Hagan, along with Heather Te Huia (QSM) met with Ministry of Education officials and presented a case for all education and care centres to be able to access the same funding as kindergartens and that more than 500 teacher-led services had signed that they would provide pay parity to their teachers on the full KTCA scale if funding was restored to the same level as kindergartens. (In 2021 we learnt that the Ministry of Education never advised Minister Hipkins of the request and had done no work on costings to reverse the 2011 funding policy change).
  • 2020 – A report on Staff Pay and Workforce Retention noted that of the 4,002 teaching staff who responded to the survey, four out of every ten planned to leave their job – and would do this by applying for jobs at other ECE services to try to get better pay and conditions of work (19%) or by walking away from working in the ECE sector altogether (20%). The results showed that improving pay would help to improve staff retention in non-kindergarten services. The gap in wages between certificated teachers working in kindergartens and working in other services increased the longer they stayed working in ECE.
  • 2020, June – The Pay Parity Steering Group noted that since they started the campaign there had been a shift in rhetoric. “The Minister of Education now agrees that all qualified teachers working in ECE should have pay parity with school teachers; late last year he stated that the current situation “is unacceptable and is unsustainable” and that pay parity is something that the government is “aiming towards”.
Pay Parity Promise Chis Hipkins on Twitter

  • 2021, 1 Jan – Funding rates for 100% qualified teachers were restored to kindergartens, and at a lower rate to other education and care centres.
  • 2021, 12 May – Minister Hipkins announced that non-kindergarten teacher-led centres would be invited to attest to paying all their qualified and certificated teachers up to Step 6 of the base scale of the KTCA, to take effect from 1 January 2022.
  • 2021, 15 Sept – Minister Hipkins announced that implementation of the 6th pay step would be deferred until 1 January 2023. Therefore services would be required to pay only up to the 5th pay step from 1 January 2022 should they wish to receive a slightly higher funding amount than they would otherwise get by attesting to pay teachers at the 1st pay step.
  • 2021, Oct – The Ministry of Education informed Dr Alexander of the Pay Parity Steering Group that:
    • it had not done a risk analysis of providing pay parity at only the first 5 or 6 KTCA pay steps. For example, in providing advice to Minister Hipkins had it considered how providing pay parity only at the bottom steps of the base pay scale would effect experienced and higher qualified teachers and their willingness to stay in the job? No it had not.
    • it still had not looked into reversing its 2011 recommendation to government to restrict salary cost adjustments only to Kindergarten Associations and what it would cost to open up the kindergarten funding bands to all education and care centres to enable full pay parity to be provided – therefore it had also not advised Minister Hipkins on this to know what to bid for in the next Government Budget round.

About Our People

Chief Advisor

Dr Sarah Alexander is highly qualified in ECE.  She also brings a huge depth of experience and knowledge to the role.

NZIRECE Editors and Board

Meet Associate Professor Wendy Boyd and the team behind the NZIRECE journal –  NZ’s first ECE peer-reviewed journal.  

Early Childhood Advisory Committee (ECAC)

ECAC members bring a diversity of perspectives, helping to inform our ECE work and outputs.

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