The NZEI Te Riu Roa is one of those outfits that camouflages its purpose in life behind a name that means nothing to most Kiwis. Actually, it’s a union in the education sector, and it’s banging on about government Budget cuts to professional development programmes for early childhood teachers.
It contends these “will undo years of work and undermine quality education for our youngest children.”
But kids of that age don’t need a “quality education” – they do require good care and someone who can change a nappy, and a flash degree isn’t a prerequisite to deliver the goods.
The union complains the government has put professional development contracts, which are run through education providers and universities, on hold.
It says the impact on those people providing the contracts and the early childhood centres which benefit, are only just being realised.
But it can’t disguise its real concern, which is to promote the interests of teachers, and – more important – to allay the threat to its membership strength.
NZEI National Executive member Hayley Whitaker says professional development is invaluable to early childhood teachers and services. Professional development advisors provide in-centre training, support new teachers, give advice and guidance, and also play a big role in supporting services which ERO has identified as “high need”.
“A lot of people, especially those in stand-alone early childhood services, rely completely on outside professional development for support and encouragement. It also gives them resources and ideas about best teaching and management practices that they wouldn’t get anywhere else,” she says.
The 10-year strategic plan for early childhood education aimed to increase quality, participation and collaboration within the sector. Included in that are moves to professionalise the teaching workforce.
Hayley Whitaker says putting professional development programmes on hold undermines all that.
So there you go. First up, they aspire to “professionalise” the nappy changers. And then, presumably, they will be demanding more pay.
Oh, and then there’s the more critical mattter of self-preservation as a union.
The government has not yet indicated when funding for early childhood professional development programmes might be restored or at what levels.
As a result dozens of NZEI members who are involved in delivering the contracts will be made redundant, and if the government does decide to put funding back in, continuity and staff capacity to run the contracts will have been lost.
The provision of the early childhood professional development contracts is critical in ensuring New Zealand remains at the forefront of quality early childhood education practice.
NZEI members will be lobbying MPs and the Minister of Education with their concerns.
They had better give Alf a wide berth during their lobbying, if they don’t want to hear language of the sort that should never be heard in places where young people are being cared for.