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Preschools desperate for more pay

The government will need to step up funding to absolve the critical workforce shortage preschool teachers say.
Nationwide, early childhood education [ECE] centres have reported challenges in retaining sufficient staffing levels to stay open.
Wairarapa was particularly impacted, with almost every preschool centre unable to keep up with demand.
Earlier this week, the government announced a policy to expand childcare subsidies for parents.
However, Wairarapa ECE centres said it failed to address the problem of teacher supply, which they attributed to low wages.
Every centre spoken to by the Times-Age said it was running at near-full or full capacity, and without the ability to hire new staff was unable to take on more children.
The latest government budget included a pay parity policy aimed at increasing the salaries of certified teachers working in childcare services to the level of qualified teachers working in kindergartens.
Services could opt in to the funding if they agreed to pay teachers salaries based on their experience.
But those working in the sector said the opt-in funding model was insufficient to cover the higher wages.
Carterton Preschool said it had lost three qualified teachers this year due to low wages, but the centre simply could not afford to opt in to
the pay parity programme.
This year 39 centres in New Zealand opted in to the programme and subsequently folded due to financial pressure.
Carterterton Preschool owner Melissa Hutchings said there was a huge shortfall between the funding and the higher salaries, which services could not afford to pay.
The Early Childhood Council has pushed the government for better ECE funding, with chief executive Simon Laube maintaining the current model was insufficient.
“The policy needs centres to sort teachers into pay bands based on their experience, and we think the government totally underestimated how qualified the workforce is,” Laube said.
“If you have a team of inexperienced teachers, then it might work.
“We’ve been working with centres to help them make an informed choice to opt in.”
Some centres opted in to the funding model to retain teachers even though they struggled to pay the shortfall.
Early Childhood Council reported that centre managers had taken pay cuts and increased fees by up to 15 per cent.
“Investing more into teacher salaries needs to be the government’s number one priority in the sector,” Laube said.

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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