Regulation for 80% Qualified Teachers Shelved at the Eleventh Hour

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80% qualified teachers.
April 12, 2023.

At the eleventh hour, the decision to halt progress toward 80% qualified teachers in teacher-led centres was made by the Minister of Education.

Draft regulations were to be consulted on this month, which would have been followed by the completion of changes to the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008 (the Regulations) within this term of government.

Now there will be no change in regulation and no date set by which regulation for 80% qualified teachers in education and care centres will come into force.

What now?

Will the ministry quickly get on the phone to the Minster of Education and offer an option that could be signed off before the October general election?

A feasible option would be to introduce regulation to ensure a minimum of 50% of adults required to cover the minimum adult to child ratio in teacher-led centres when children are attending hold a recognised ECE teaching qualification.

Problems with the draft regulations

The Ministry of Education aimed to have teachers with no training and no formal qualifications in the care and education of young children included in the 80%. Also, the Ministry wanted to align its funding handbook rules with government regulations for staffing – which is not the basis on which regulations should be formed.  

Therefore, the draft regulations were likely insufficient to satisfy government intentions to regulate for 80% ECE qualified teachers.

Could the new Minister of Education Jan Tinetti and ECE Parliamentary Under-Secretary Jo Luxton have seen what the former Minister of Education did not, which is that the draft regulations were insufficient or wrong? Hence, the sudden and surprise halt by Government to regulating for 80%?

Other Problems

Could the decision be about teacher supply? The answer to this question is that Ministry of Education data indicated that “most services are well placed to comply with a new 80% requirement” (p. 12 Consultation on Tranche Two).

Could the decision be to ease pressure on the sector? Or is the decision more about easing pressure and responsibility on the government?

Labour’s promises to regulate for 80%

In 2020 Labour promised that if it won the election, it would implement its 10-year He taonga te tamaiti: Early Learning Action Plan. Regulating for 80 percent qualified teachers is a key action in He taonga te tamaiti.

Remember that in 2017 Labour’s early childhood education promises included that if it won the election, it would “Require centres to employ at least 80 per cent ECE qualified teachers by the end of the first term in government”.

Remember also that two decades ago, Labour made a similar commitment in its Ten Year Strategic Plan and by setting targets of 50% ECE qualified teachers by 2007, 80% by 2010 and 100% by 2012. Fifty percent was achieved in and 80% was achieved in most centres. However, these were not regulated and a change in government saw the targets dropped.

What is the law currently?

The law currently allows teacher-led centres to have no ECE trained teachers with children, for at least part of the day.

This is because regulations for the person responsible were changed to remove the requirement for the person responsible for supervising the care and education provided to children needs to be ECE trained and qualified. It is also because while centres are required to employ or show they have engaged 50% ECE qualified teachers, this is an on-paper requirement only for the purpose of licensing the service as being teacher-led, and not for the purpose of ensuring children are taught and cared by persons who have training and hold a qualification in ECE.

Additional information

Previous consultation

The ministry formulated three options for regulating for 80% qualified and certificated teachers. The problems with these were, first that it sought to align what it did for funding with qualification standards in the Regulations and second that it would allow non-ECE trained people to count for the purpose of regulating the percentage of qualified teachers.

Option 1: Regulate for centres to employ 50% ECE teachers and 30% teachers who may be primary or ECE measured against the number of child places and ages the centre is licensed for. (This does not guarantee that an ECE qualified will be present when children are attending because of a regulation change which now allows the Person Responsible to be primary teacher qualified.)

Option 2: Regulate for 80% ‘teachers’ who may all be primary school trained, in centres on average over a 4-month period.

Option 3: Option 1 plus at least 50% of adults in the minimum adult:child ratio must be ECE qualified and certificated. (This will guarantee every centre will have at least one ECE qualified when children are attending)

Recognising primary school teacher training, or any other professional qualifications not related to infants and young children, as an adequate replacement for early childhood teacher training goes directly against the knowledge base on what is best for quality for children.

The research literature is clear on this – to deliver better outcomes for children, the adults providing non-parental care and education must be well educated, and skilled with qualifications directly relevant to early childhood. 

It also goes against a strong background of political advocacy for recognition of early childhood teacher training and qualifications.  Examples of advocacy include:

  • Pathways to the Future/Ngā Huarahi Arataki, the 10-year plan for early childhood had as one of its key goals to lift the proportion of teachers holding an ECE recognised diploma or degree and teacher registration. 
  • The Office of the Children’s Commissioner inquiry (2011) into the standard of education and care of infants and toddlers found that “teachers understood the rationale for well-educated and knowledgeable staff that held early childhood qualifications and the necessary skills for working with infants and toddlers. Some reported examples of ECS that were reducing professional development for their staff and when qualified teachers left, they were being replaced by untrained staff” (p. 157).  It recommended policies mitigate the risks that arise for infants and toddlers from their vulnerability and stage of development through ensuring they have staff who are knowledgeable and skilled in early childhood teaching.

Person Responsible

Parliament’s Regulation Review Committee tasked the Ministry to improve the Person Responsible regulation, but the Ministry did not include in this a need to restore the qualification recognised for a Person Responsible to being an ECE qualification only.

You may remember that at the end of 2019 the Minister of Education 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. The allowance was made at the time for political reasons, without evidence.

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