ECAC Minutes, December 2021

The Early Childhood Advisory Committee (ECAC) met on 1 December 2021, 10:00am to 2:30pm online through Teams.


Special Guests

  • Iona Holsted, Te Tumu Whakarae mō te Mātauranga | Secretary for Education
  • Sarah Fussell-Quarmby, Ministry of Social Development
  • Alice Fitzgerald, Ministry of Social Development
  • Adaire Koia-Ward, Ministry of Social Development
  • Dionne Steven, Education Review Office

ECAC members

  • Alannah Clark, New Zealand Educational Institute
  • David Moger, Playcentre Aotearoa
  • Fiona Hughes, BestStart
  • Kelly Seaburg, Advocates for Early Learning Excellence
  • Jenny Te Punga-Jurgens, Christian Early Childhood Education Association of Aotearoa
  • Jill Bond, NZ Kindergartens Inc.
  • Kathy Wolfe, Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood NZ
  • Nicola Woollaston, Hospital Play Specialists Association, Aotearoa
  • Simon Laube, Early Childhood Council
  • Sue Kurtovich, Early Childhood Council (Observer)
  • Raewyn Overton-Stuart, Home Early Learning Organisation (HELO)
  • Erin Maloney, NZ Home-based Early Childhood Education Association
  • Catherine Neill, Auckland Kindergarten Association (AKA)
  • Calmar Ulberg, Early Childhood Leadership Group
  • Karen Affleck, Steiner Education, Aotearoa
  • Tony de Lorenzo, Barnardos New Zealand
  • Ann Malir, Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu, NZ Correspondence School
  • Stephanie Mills, NZEI Te Riu Roa
  • Susan Bailey, NZ Playcentre Federation
  • Cathy Wilson, Montessori Aotearoa New Zealand (MANZ)
  • Simon Cottle, Teaching Council of Aotearoa
  • Emily Dakin, Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust

Ministry of Education

  • Nancy Bell, Hautū, Te Mahau, Te Tai Runga (South) (Chair) 
  • Sarah Strong, Manager, ECE Funding
  • Tim Tucker, Manager, Employment Relations
  • John Brooker, Group Manager, Education System Policy
  • Karen Walfisch, Associate Deputy Secretary, Resourcing and Early Learning Delivery
  • Elspeth Maxwell, Group Manager, ECE Resourcing and Operations
  • Siobhan Murray, Senior Manager, ECE Policy
  • Sam Johnston, Lead Adviser, ECE Operational Policy
  • Debra Taylor, Manager, Evidence, Data and Knowledge (EDK)
  • Catherine Wright, Administrator, ECE Regulations and Planning (Minutes)


  • Heather Taylor, Barnardos New Zealand
  • Jayne Franklin, Teaching Council of Aotearoa

Welcome, karakia and introductions

Nancy Bell & Jenny Te Punga-Jurgens

  • Nancy welcomed the group and Jenny Te Punga-Jurgens opened the meeting with a karakia.
  • Nancy invited each member to introduce themselves.
  • Minutes have been circulated. No feedback to note.
  • Apologies were circulated by email, prior to the meeting.

Early Learning Regulatory Review – Update on Tranche 1 & 2 Consultations

Elspeth Maxwell, Siobhan Murray & Sam Johnston

Tranche One (Sam Johnston):

  • Sam Johnston presented an overview of the steps taken to implement Tranche 1 of the Early Learning Regulatory Review. Sam will circulate the accompanying slides to ECAC members, post-meeting.
  • Any feedback or questions are welcome, particularly with regards to what ECAC would consider to be appropriate time frames for each of the circumstances outlined in the table on the final slide.

Tranche Two (Siobhan Murray):

Siobhan gave an update on the results of the consultation of Tranche Two in September/October.

  • There were multiple proposals to consulted on. Information on these is included in the accompanying slides circulated to ECAC members, post-meeting.
  • We may not have received the full responses that would have been received at other times, due to COVID restrictions.
  • Majority of respondents either supported or had no strong opinion about the proposals.
  • One key theme regarding the draft home-based regulations was that the COVID-19 lockdowns have affected educators’ ability to complete an approved qualification in time for the 1 January 2022 commencement date. In response, the implementation date has been delayed to 1 June 2022. This is featured in the following early learning bulletins: COVID-19 update - 10 November(external link) and COVID-19 update - 14 December(external link).
  • A key issue relating to the 80% qualified teacher proposals was around teacher supply and how this could make it difficult to meet a new 80% regulatory requirement.

Funding Review

John Brooker, Group Manager, Education System Policy

John provided an overview of the funding review.

  • The current funding system is not a good fit for getting money out to services that need it to support government’s pay parity commitment.
  • One of the factors driving the Minister’s decision on the scope is keeping the review realistic and deliverable.
  • Discussion followed around disappointment on how it could impact systemic funding in ECE. It was suggested that some time be made offline to discuss these concerns.
  • John discussed the need to engage the group and the wider sector on these matters. A ‘two prong approach’ was put to the Minister where we have sector experts as well as some broader consultation. We would want service providers that have a solid understanding of the early learning sector, including the home-based education sector, mechanics of staffing and funding of services, from a range of service sizes. We will look into this further in the New Year.
  • Having teacher voices in this group as well as provider experts was raised as a point to consider, finding a balance of different service types and taking into consideration various locations across New Zealand.
  • John acknowledged the response of members and services to the staffing survey that was sent out. This is helpful in light of our advice to the Minister regarding the budget and how we continue getting money into the system for pay parity.
  • John discussed setting up a small group to gather more financial data to inform the funding review. John will follow up with an email, seeking nominations for that group.

ECAC Engagement with Te Mahau

Jill Bond & Kathy Wolfe

Jill discussed the engagement with Te Mahau, working in partnership with Māori and Iwi and bringing local voices into the discussion, to bring about excellence in regional settings for better outcomes for children.

  • A small group of ECAC members collaborated to brainstorm how we can work effectively with Te Mahau.
  • Draft papers have been circulated to all ECAC members.
  • We have developed a framework, based on the ‘Four Pillars of Governance.’ The four pillars are to;
    • provide structure and accountability for the strategic direction and success of the education sector, with a focus on 0-18 year olds.
    • Ensure effective culture and the way in which we individually and collectively work together to honour and progress the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
    • Ensure effective compliance to minimise unintended consequences.
    • Hold each other to account and ensure all parties deliver on commitments made, with transparency.
  • The main idea is to truly work in partnership to progress the mahi regarding the early childhood space; a mechanism to ensure we’re on the same page with regards to ECE. This involves a transparent way of working where everybody knows what their responsibilities are, what they bring to the table.
  • It is an opportunity for subgroups at regional and local levels to work in partnership under the umbrella of the whole government in a strategic level approach that’s very much joined up.
  • The discussion paper will be presented to Iona for feedback.

Secretary for Education - Iona Holsted

Iona acknowledged that the concepts which Jill presented are consistent with the approach of Te Mahau, which is the ‘coming together’ of the profession and the public service. Iona continued with the following:

  • In the first half of 2022 we will be spending more time on the Te Mahau operating model. This has been slowed down in 2021 due to Covid.
  • Te Mahau will focus on stakeholders, partners and customers, and understand the working relationships that we have.
  • We have identified three high-level strategic foci:
    1. Who are, who we work for and how we work.
    2. To focus on leadership, within the Ministry and across the sector.
    3. To engage with others about the future of education.

Iona welcomed any comments and questions from the group. There were various discussions regarding the Education website and the Education Workforce Strategy.

MSD: Review of Childcare Assistance

Sarah Fussell-Quarmby, Alice Fitzgerald & Adaire Koia-Ward

Sarah presented on the Ministry of Social Development’s (MSD) review of the Childcare Assistance that MSD administers to identify ways of improving support for low to middle-income families, including improving the way that Childcare Assistance is administered.

This work has come out of a recommendation from the Welfare Expert Advisory Group, which recommended that the government look at a range of areas relating to childcare support.

Sarah invited the group to share any issues they are facing in regard to these topics and what would be good solutions.

A question was raised regarding the likely timeframe and whether there is a Ministerial mandate for the review. Sarah confirmed there is a joint Ministerial mandate from the Minister of Social Development and the Minister of Education. There is nothing to proactively release at present, but they are aiming for Budget 2023.

A question was raised whether there would be the opportunity to provide the group with specific questions that can be shared with membership. Sarah confirmed this would be provided via email.

Highest Needs Review Phase 1

Kirsty Christison (Manager, Highest Needs Review)

Kirsty presented on the Highest Needs Review which is for children with the highest needs who require individualised support and services.

  • Kirsty talked about the fundamental importance of identifying earlier, intervening earlier, and supporting earlier in the context of early learning. This needs to happen through a better alignment among agencies, so that children and those who are trying to support them, can access the support they need, when they need it, for as long as they need it. This should happen regardless of their settings.
  • Equitable access and unmet needs are two key themes that will be explored further.
  • The Phase One Summary of Engagement outlines many groups of children identified as having gaps in their level of access to individualised services.
  • As they enter the Second Engagement Phase, Kirsty acknowledged the experience, knowledge, and expertise of ECAC members and how valuable it would be to hear what the issues and solutions might be for children with high or complex needs. This could be via workshops or through forums.
  • The engagement phase has been extended till March due to Covid delays so there will be opportunity to discuss in the New Year.

ELAP Dashboard

Nancy Bell

Updated ELAP Dashboard was pre-circulated.

ELAP Evaluation Framework: EDK & ERO

Dionne Steven (ERO) & Debra Taylor

The Ministry and ERO are working together to establish a monitoring and evaluation framework for the Early Learning Action Plan. This process includes establishing clear intervention logics and looking at how we can establish a baseline against which we can measure change over time.

ERO collects data through Quality and Assurance reviews, as well as various research and evaluation, and the Ministry has a range of data that they collect. It is about bringing these together to better understand what is happening. Dionne also noted the need to develop some new data-gathering tools.

In terms of developing a monitoring and evaluation framework, there are some key factors to consider:

  • ELAP is big and varied and essentially encompasses the entire ECE system. Determining the impact of ELAP, or individual actions within ELAP, would, therefore, be extremely challenging/impossible. The Ministry and ERO agree that the best approach is to develop a robust, system-level ‘basket’ of indicators that we can monitor over time to understand how the ECE sector is performing and changing as a result of what has been implemented under ELAP.
  • Performance Indicators would be aligned to the three ELAP goals of Quality, Equity and Choice, as well as indicators around workforce: teacher pay, supply, retention, teacher wellbeing.
  • Monitoring of these indicators would be repeated at regular intervals to get a sense of how the ECE sector is tracking and what might not be working so well, which could be supplemented with further investigation.

Dionne discussed how 13 outcome indicators were identified and prioritised against the three goals of Quality, Equity, and Choice plus workforce pay, supply, retention, teacher wellbeing. Indicators were then mapped to data currently captured by the Ministry, ERO, Teaching Council, and DIA. Gaps were identified and options for new data gathering tools developed, subject to resourcing/funding.

This high-level framework was presented in a strategy session with Minister Hipkins at the end of June 2021. The Minister supported ERO and the Ministry continuing to work together to develop the ELAP evaluation framework and wanted the framework to include insights from ERO's new review methodology, particularly how services are progressing over time from Akanuku (assurance) reviews to, and through, Akarangi (quality) reviews.

Work on the framework will begin in 2022. The aim is to get the first report out at the end of 2022. This will provide a baseline for measuring performance across subsequent years and in determining what effect ELAP is having.

Dionne suggested the idea of establishing an expert advisory group to help advise on some key matters, particularly with regards to the proposed surveys.

COVID-19 – Preparing for 2022

Ministry staff

Nancy gave an overview of the most recent developments regarding COVID-19 and its impact on the Early Childhood sector. There were various discussions that followed, including:

  • An update that the Ministry’s toolkit will be published in the upcoming bulletin and it will be monitored on an ongoing basis. It will be useful to get feedback on this.
  • A discussion around the traffic light system and what the impact of being at ‘red’ will have on attendance. It was discussed that the new system is a more permissive framework where children can attend services, as long as those services are operating within health and safety guidelines. The financial impacts of parents keeping children at home is recognised and this will be considered further.
  • A discussion around funding support when terminating staff. There is a new legislative change that requires businesses to pay four weeks’ termination which will add pressure for early learning services.
  • A discussion around what funding is available for services that fall short of the 80% requirement due to having to terminate staff.
  • It was proposed that ECAC members come together as a sector group to collate ideas for funding options and what could be put in place to better support services through this period. This would be presented to the Ministry in writing.
  • A discussion around how many services a child can attend. There will be clarification in today’s bulletin that children are able to attend more than one service.
  • A discussion around vaccine records and whether we still need to record the dates of vaccine or whether the vaccine passport overrides this. It was confirmed that a vaccine passport doesn’t remove the need for the vaccine register containing the dates of vaccination.
  • A discussion around parents who aren’t vaccinated and how to manage this within the service. It was noted that blanket mitigations to reduce the spread, such as reasonable requests for mask wearing, are acceptable, providing it is one rule for all parents. An offline discussion post-meeting was encouraged.

Other items and wrap up

Nancy Bell, Ministry of Education

Kelly Seaburg from Advocates for Excellence raised teacher shortage issues and whether we can create pathways for those who have a qualification and relevant teaching experience, but who aren’t ECE qualified, in order to achieve 80% qualified teachers in the short term. For example, these might be overseas teachers who are registered at secondary level but who are not currently able to teach in ECE.

Could these pathways be enabled and if so, what would it look like, without undervaluing the qualifications that New Zealand ECE teachers have and the overall integrity of the sector.

Nancy closed the meeting with a karakia.

Action items Responsibility Deadline
Sam to circulate slideshow among ECAC members. Sam Johnston Complete
Siobhan to circulate slideshow among ECAC members. Siobhan Murray Complete
John to send request for members to nominate members for the Sector Expert Group, which will provide feedback on the Funding Review, including the upcoming data collection. John Brooker Complete
Sarah to email questions for ECAC members to review. Sarah Fussell-Quarmby Complete
Kirsty to email link to Cabinet paper and an invite to ECAC members to engage with your team. Kirsty Christison Complete
Simon to organise a hui to work through key suggestions around funding, to present to the Ministry. Simon Laube Overtaken by events
Simon to reach out to ECAC members to create group for teacher shortage discussion. Simon Mandal-Johnson Complete

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