Swings + Roundabouts Winter 2022

couldn’t work out how? That was before we fully appreciated the whole “airborne transmission” thing. If there’s one thing we’ve all learnt, is an educative approach to new things actually works – and remember we all learn at different rates and so we make quite different decisions. New Zealanders have been trained to have a “fear response” to COVID-19. Taking up best practice ventilation approaches should be in every centre’s Winter planning though. COVID-19 as an illness is less severe for young children but centres are at risk of other illnesses too – like RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) and Measles. RSV came into NZ in 2021 when the bubble to Australia opened. Many young children were hospitalised as a result – it is not mild for young children. We do not want more RSV in centres (or Measles!). Effective ventilation also mitigates the spread of these other viruses. Budget 2022 Budget 2022 included bold new ECE investments. Pay parity got a further investment with 265.6 million over four years. Some of this goes into funding Step 6 so the new Pay Parity Rates include all the Steps 1-6. But further complexity and deep flaws are emerging with a new set of Extended Pay Parity Rates – to cover the remaining Steps 7-11 (and including a new management step). The Extended Pay Parity Rates are only partially funded. That means that the accompanying minimum salary levels that services must attest to paying will cost services more to pay (on average) than the level of new funding provided by the government. It is being deliberately and openly under-funded. ECC has been working on how the Budget 2021 Pay Parity Funding Rates work for services and we were fast reaching a conclusion that even the fully-funded Pay Parity Funding Rates are not sufficient for too many services. This is why we are saying that, on top of the teacher supply crisis, this new move to extending pay parity could be ill-judged and lead to a haemorrhaging crisis for services. We do understand why the Government took this approach because if there is a strictly limited amount of funding (is there?!) then you can either partially fund the new levels or only fund three or perhaps four levels with that same total amount of funding (leaving some of the higher levels completely un-funded). That is the bureaucrat talking. In more simple terms, it is very disappointing if the best result from Extended Pay Parity is for the sector to avoid it. The sector could really use $265.6 million of fresh investment, but not delivered like this. This is not going to be stopping our best and brightest graduates from avoiding studying ECE and hopping on a plane to Australia instead. The Cost Adjustment provided $231.8 million over four years and was based on a forecast inflation rate of 2.75% (the same rate was applied to School Operations grants). While ECC welcomes the adjustment, the new funds only start in January 2023. This means the Government effectively saves half the cost they would otherwise have had to spend in the current financial year - because they don’t have to pay for the six months from 1 July 2022. The six months the early learning sector waits for the increase are likely to be difficult months indeed with inflationary pressure building. “Ventilation advice: behaviours in early learning centres (and schools) now need to change. It is ok to have your heaters on and windows open in Winter – we are not kidding! You need to keep spaces at a comfortable 18 degrees Centigrade but also with fresh air flow.” The Government released its Emissions Reduction Plan in May. On the day the education sector was sent a link and the detail on action 3.1.1 as it contained a range of education actions and mentions early learning specifically. Unfortunately, it did not actually include any actions in early learning. ECC has written to the Government about this as we consider that now effort needs to go into implementing the full plan – that means taking action systematically. It should involve key industries and sectors like early learning directly. I don’t think many people are going to read the plan actually. Unless we do something with this plan, we won’t see behaviours changing fast enough (we will just have another new plan that sits on the shelf). In early learning, this could mean it will fall to centre operators to adopt new actions and seek to make changes to the way we work so we lead by example: showing the young children / mokopuna in early learning that we truly value the whole of their wellbeing including future wellbeing. This is a fine extension of principles in Te Whāriki. An initial area we will be seeking to explore is more sustainable and efficient heating solutions in the education sector – after all, we know that schools will be shifting away from coal and potentially oil-fired boilers so the “A-team” in the Ministry of Education’s infrastructure and digital division will surely be researching new technologies to replace these. Let’s ensure that early learning gets included in this scoping work – government shouldn’t want to exclude early learning providers. If they take that exclusionary approach then early learning centres will know no better and continue to purchase less sustainable or inefficient heating technologies that have higher running costs or more harmful environmental impacts. June 2022 { 9 }