|NEW ZEALAND'S EDUCATION
Education Minister Anne Tolley has announced that Waitakere and Northland will be the first two areas to benefit from a funding boost of $91.8 million to increase participation in early childhood education.
"We want all young New Zealanders to get the best possible start in life, and currently too many Maori and Pasifika children, and children from lower socio-economic backgrounds are missing out," says Mrs Tolley.
"Taxpayer investment in this area has trebled in the last five years to $1.3 billion, while participation has increased by less than one per cent. That's why the Government is focused on increasing opportunities for the children who are most likely to benefit from ECE, but are the least likely to take part.
"The $91.8 million made available in Budget 2010 will see an extra 3500 children gain access to ECE in areas of the highest need.
"This includes five intensive community-led projects, starting in Waitakere and Northland in October 2010, with three other areas to be announced next year."
In some parts of Waitakere, 25 per cent of Pasifika children and one in five Maori children are missing out on ECE, while in some Northland areas a quarter of Maori children arrive at school without early childhood education. The average participation rate across the whole of New Zealand is 95 per cent.
The new programmes in Waitakere and Northland will build on the experience of the Counties Manukau participation project, which has placed hundreds of extra children into new, quality ECE services. It involves building new services and funding supported playgroups, street side playgroups and play days in local communities, to attract families into ECE.
"It's important that local people drive the solutions, and the Ministry will begin work with community groups to establish the reasons for low participation, and the best approach to reach these families," says Mrs Tolley.
"In addition to these intensive projects, the funding boost will be invested in supported playgroups, home-based ECE initiatives, language and culture projects for ECE providers, and targeted support for priority families. We will be announcing more details in the coming months.
"Government is committed to early childhood education, and we are ensuring our approach is flexible enough to benefit all of our young children."