ECAC Minutes, March 2021

The Early Childhood Advisory Committee (ECAC) met on 17 March 2021, 10:00am to 2:00pm at Mātauranga House, Wellington.


Special guests

  • Hon Chris Hipkins, Minister of Education
  • Iona Holsted, Secretary for Education
  • Joanna Gibbs, National Director, Operations Vaccine Programme, Ministry of Health
  • Beth Williams, Operations Vaccine Programme, Ministry of Health

ECAC Members

  • Ann Malir, Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu
  • Angus Hartley, Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust
  • Calmar Ulberg, Early Childhood Leadership Group
  • Cathy Wilson, Montessori Aotearoa of NZ (MANZ)
  • Donovan Clarke, Early Childhood Leadership Group
  • Hellen Puhipuhi, Pasifika Advisory Group
  • Jayne Franklin, Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Jenny TePunga-Jurgens, Christian Early Childhood Education Association of Aotearoa
  • Jill Bond, NZ Kindergartens Inc
  • Jo Lambert, Barnardos New Zealand
  • Karen Affleck, Steiner Education Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Kathy Wolfe, Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood NZ
  • Lee Jones, Early Intervention Association of Aotearoa NZ (EIAANZ)
  • Nicola Woollaston, Hospital Play Specialists
  • Pauline Winter, Auckland Kindergarten Association (AKA)
  • Peter Reynolds, Early Childhood Council
  • Raewyn Overton-Stuart, Home Early Learning Organisation (HELO)
  • Sandie Burn, NZEI Te Riu Roa
  • Sandra Collins, Education Review Office (ERO)
  • Shelley Hughes, NZEI Te Riu Roa
  • Susan Phua, New Zealand Home-based Early Childhood Education Association
  • Thomas Tawhiri, NZ Playcentre Federation

Ministry of Education

  • Katrina Casey (chair), Deputy Secretary, Sector Enablement and Support (SE&S)
  • Nancy Bell, Director, Early Learning, Early Learning and Student Achievement (ELSA)
  • Helen Hurst, Associate Deputy Secretary, Sector Enablement and Support (SE&S)
  • John Brooker, Group Manager Funding, ECE and Budget teams, Education System Policy (ESP)
  • Siobhan Murray, Senior Manager, ECE Policy, Education System Policy (ESP)
  • Keith Newton, Group Manager, Sector Enablement and Support (SE&S)
  • Elspeth Maxwell, Manager, Sector Enablement and Support (SE&S)
  • Sam Johnson, Senior Adviser, Sector Enablement and Support (SE&S)
  • Seneca Grant (interim secretariat), Administrator, ECE Regulations and Planning, Sector Enablement and Support (SE&S)


  • Erin Maloney, New Zealand Home-based Early Childhood Education Association

Welcome, karakia and introductions

Katrina Casey, Ministry of Education; Jill Bond, NZ Kindergartens Inc.

  • Katrina welcomed the group and Jill opened the meeting with a karakia. 

Apologies, minutes, and actions 

Katrina Casey, Ministry of Education

  • Apologies, minutes, and actions were previously circulated by email and confirmed.

Review of Equity Funding and the Early Learning Regulatory Review

John Brooker, Ministry of Education

Review of Equity Funding

We are continuing to work on the Review of Equity and Targeted Funding in Early Learning. We have held three meetings with the Sector Reference Group (SRG).

The review so far has mainly focused on the purpose of the funding and developing a new method to determine where funding should be allocated. The new index will replace both the EQI and Targeted Funding used in the current system. It will take advantage of the data and methods that are now available, allowing us to identify disadvantage more accurately.

Recap on the recent meetings

At the most recent SRG meeting, a new method for describing the socio-economic status of services was presented. This was in response to concerns that were raised at the second meeting regarding the previously proposed regression method.

The regression method proposed in the second meeting links a range of variables to NCEA achievement at levels one and two. It is the method that will be used in schooling to determine the level of disadvantage in each school and allocate funding to where it is most needed. The Group was concerned about using this method in the early learning context because of the need to use NCEA achievement as an outcome measure.

We therefore proposed an alternative method: Principal Component Analysis (PCA). It is a descriptive rather than prescriptive technique and does not require an outcome variable such as NCEA. Like the regression-based schooling Equity Index, PCA would use a range of variables available in the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI), enabling for a more nuanced picture of disadvantage compared with the current index. We also had an initial discussion of the variables that could be used.

In terms of the work ahead, we will:

  • finalise the methodology used to generate the socio-economic index.
  • consider how a service’s calculated socio-economic index value will determine its level of funding.
  • consider the accountability settings that will support this funding, including spending guidelines and reporting requirements.

The next meeting with the Sector Reference Group is scheduled for April.

Early Learning Regulatory Review

We received 258 responses, and 21 written submissions to the survey on the Consultation on the Tranche One of the Early Learning Regulatory Review. Of note:

  • 87% were either early learning service owners/managers, or were early learning teachers/educators
  • 72% were associated with the education & care part of the ECE sector
  • Over half (52%) were from either Auckland, Wellington, or Canterbury

We heard several common themes come through. Some of these things will be in scope for Tranche 2 & 3. These include:

  • Review the requirement for the person responsible.
  • Ensure that parents and whānau are aware of the licensing status of their child’s service.
  • Improve the complaints process especially for teachers.
  • Improve ratios/group size/across licence ratios.
  • Improve physical environment, including health, safety and wellbeing for children and teachers.
  • Consider a review mechanism for Ministry decisions.
  • Establish tiered interventions for non-compliance based on severity or impact on children.
  • Review funding for early learning services.
  • Better treatment of teachers from their employer, including bullying.

Tranche 2 will include:

  • regulating for 80% qualified plus associated qualification standard changes,
  • network planning and some related licensing changes
  • reviewing the person responsible requirements
  • how we can keep parents and whānau better informed as to the licensing status of their child's service.

The remainder of the matters will likely be considered as part of tranche 3 except for a review of the funding system and treatment of staff by their employer as these are outside the scope of this Review.

Next steps for Tranche One:

  • operational policy and guidance ahead of implementation
  • the date for the new regulations to come into effect
  • an engagement plan for tranche 2
  • broader thinking on our role as regulator

Urgent Response Fund (URF) update

Pamela Cohen, Georgina Muir, Ministry of Education

Feedback from ECAC was valuable in improving the URF process, particularly for early learning services ngā kōhanga reo to increase payment frequency.

There has been a steady flow of applications and approvals from early learning services ngā kōhanga reo.

  • We saw a 38% increase in the number of applications approved from November 2020 to February 2021.
  • More than 8,900 learners from early learning services ngā kōhanga reo has been supported since November 2020, and more services are accessing URF support.
  • There was a 17% increase in the average spend per learner for early learning services ngā kōhanga reo from $94 in November 2020 to $112 in February 2021.

Wellbeing needs to support attendance remains the primary category in the URF applications from early learning services ngā kōhanga reo. Both the number of applications approved, and the value of these applications have increased.

Key statistics:

  • As at 10 February 2021
    We have approved 3,575 approved to the URF totalling $34.1m. These applications supported 380,475 learners across 2,327 schools, kura and early learning services ngā kōhanga reo. The national average spend per learner was $90.
  • Payment frequency
    Payments to early learning services ngā kōhanga reo have increased in frequency to every two weeks in response to feedback provided by ECAC.

Early learning services me ngā kōhanga reo:

  • 749 approved applications valued over $4.5m as at 10 February 2021. This is up from 510 applications valued at $3m approved in November 2020.
  • 40,370 learners are supported across 706 services and kōhanga as at 10 February 2021. This is up from 31,372 learners across 484 services and kōhanga in November 2020.
  • At 10 February 2021, the average spend per learner is $112. This is up from $94 per learner in November 2020.

Early Learning Action Plan (ELAP) and Dashboard

Siobhan Murray, Paul Whiting, Ministry of Education 

Siobhan presented an update on the Early Learning Action Plan (ELAP) and Dashboard:

  • There has been a change of status to some of the ELAP actions from red or orange to not yet started (e.g. 1.2 and 1.3) or green (e.g. 3.6 and 4.1) since the last dashboard in December.
  • This is mainly because the Minister of Education has agreed to amend the timing for some actions.

Some highlights in the last quarter include:

  • Public consultation on the proposals in Tranche 1 of the Regulatory Review of the Early Learning System, which closed on 22 Feb 2021.
  • Initiation of the gazetting Te Whāriki work, which Nancy Bell will talk about later this afternoon.
  • We have received a draft of the social and emotional practice and progress tools, which we’ll be trialling into two stages with kaiako this year.

In terms of data, we have not been able to provide you with quarterly data in time for services, participation, and quality for this meeting.

  • 19% of services are now at the 100% funding band, up from 16% in December.

Minister and Iona’s attendance

Hon Chris Hipkins, Minister of Education, Iona Holsted, Secretary for Education 

The Minister provided a brief overview on the following before opening the floor to discussion.

  • Vaccines: Vaccine roll out aims to support stability and predictability for the education sector.
  • Pay Parity: Each investment we make will support the outcomes we are striving for – equity. I’m aware that there is often pressure for securing and retaining those very experienced teachers.
  • Pay Parity and Network: Law changes will not come into effect for a while, and there is still some work to go to ensure we put good policy in place.
  • Gazetting of Te Whāriki - We’re on track, on a pathway.


  • On behalf of the ECAC group, Jill Bond made the following points: ECAC are clearly interested in the Early Leaning Action Plan (ELAP), however, there is some concern that we are not starting to see systemic change.
  • There is a sense in the sector of a growing focus on compliance, which is distracting from the core of teaching and learning.
  • The sector is seeing a decline in ECE participation. There is a displacement of work, which are mostly women. Thus, this reduction in income effects their capacity to have their children in ECE. This leads to an impact on funding and unfortunately the Urgent Response Fund (URF) is not sufficient to address the shortfall.
  • Jo Lambert explained the changes in home-based ECE had impacted on work volumes and it felt as though there was a significant disconnect between the Policy that was written and how it was operationalised in practice.
  • Donovan Clarke noted there is a lot of talk about the compulsory sector, commitment to early learning sector and the differences in the level of resourcing between these. When having a conversation about systemic change, we should be considering aspects such as ECE being compulsory from 3 years and up.

Minister – ELAP

  • ELAP is a 10-year plan. Investment into the 10 year plan cannot happen all at once. Pay parity for example, does require a significant investment and this is going to need to happen over multiple budgets; however, doing it properly will put you on an even level with the others across the sector. I’ve always taken the view it’s better to pick things off and make progress, otherwise you’re just making changes at the margins.
  • Jo Lambert expressed how the ELAP is being executed and a sense of it being “done to them”. The sector is invested in the ELAP and would like to have discussions on what is prioritised.
    • Iona advised that we would investigate this and unpack the themes
  • Pauline Winter explained how in the East of Auckland several children would not be coming back until the vaccinations have been rolled out. South and West Auckland had been affected by job loss.
  • Peter Reynolds asks why home-based teachers was excluded from pay parity.
    • Minister – it is subject to budget restrictions, but we will consider your feedback.
  • Donovan Clarke detailed the gains from lunches in schools, and asked if this could that be potentially be extended to ECE for 3-year olds?
    • Minister - Lunch in schools is a big change, for both parents and schools. We’ll continue to look at that programme, how it’s targeted and who it’s targeted at. ECE is more complicated because of the diversity of delivery models – some offer food already, some work with KidsCan.
    • Iona - The philanthropists that were providing food in schools are freed up, we can facilitate conversations if there are pressure points.
  • Jo Lambert explained how the attendance in one of their centres was low on Fridays, and realised it was because of ‘lunchbox Friday’ where parents had to provide food.
    • Minister – Uptake of free breakfasts has increased because the availability of free lunches has reduced the stigma of getting a free breakfast. Afternoons are more productive for learning. Bond between students and teachers has improved – some schools the teachers are the ones handing out the food, which has had the effect of improving relationships.
  • Jo Lambert noted the messaging around Pay Parity needs to be careful so that experienced teachers don’t feel hard done by. That was a problem last year.
    • Minister – This is an important point. If two centres have different teacher experience, both will get more funding. We want to make sure the funding is going to go to teachers, not windfall gain that is spent on something else.
  • Donovan Clarke asked if teachers will be in a special category for the Vaccine strategy?
    • Minister – We are taking a risk-based approach – Those who are more likely to get it or more likely to have adverse response. For example, those who are front-line or boarder workers, and those who live in the South Auckland geographic area. This is about the next 16 weeks. After the beginning July everyone will have access to it.
  • Pauline Winter noted the Vaccine specialists worried about measles.
    • Minister – complexity in vaccines and the interaction between them. Developing and enhancing systems to have a vaccine register that everyone will be able to look up online and see what vaccines they’ve had.
  • Thomas Tawhiri asked the Minister’s view on the direction for parent-led education and how he sees this fitting in with the wider sector.
    • Minister – I am a fan for parent led ECE. I used to go to one myself. However, things have changed since then – there are more two parent working families. The playcentre demographic has changed. But playcentre still has a space.

Update on the Early Learning Sustainability Fund

Keith Newton, Ministry of Education

In 2020, Government put in place the early learning sustainability fund to support services hardest hit by the impact of COVID-19, where they are a crucial part of the network.

The fund aims to support the diversity and viability of services, particularly in low socio-economic areas or services that specifically cater for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The fund is application-based. The eligibility criteria are designed so that the funding supports the viability of services in areas of greatest need.

Key statistics:

Applications Received

  • 36 applications have been received: 30 in the first round and 6 in the second round
  • $3.1m is the total value of applications to date
  • Applications have been received from all regions and represent all early learning service types
  • Most applications have been received from standalone services
  • 55% (20) of the applications are for services between 1 and 4 on the Equity Index (EQI) (low socio-economic areas)
  • 45% (16) are 5+ on the EQI

Applications Progressing

  • 61% (22) of the applications have been assessed; 14 of the 22 have been declined for a range of reasons including: existing reserves available to be accessed; licensing conditions (suspension/cancellation)
  • 5% (2) have withdrawn
  • 33% (12) are being assessed or providing outstanding information
  • 36% (8) of the applications assessed have been approved
  • Funding of $491,000 has been approved for payment

Vaccine Strategy Taskforce

Joanne Gibbs, Ministry of Health

Joanne provided an outline of New Zealand’s COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy and key progress to date.

Key points covered in the presentation included:


  • Donovan Clarke – What strategies are being used to address health outcomes in Māori and Pacifika?
    • MOH - We agreed on a Māori and Pacifika strategy designed for their whānau and communities. For example, we are looking at having culturally specific centres for Vaccinations, such as in mārae and churches. All communication is being produced in a range a of 20 languages, of course including te reo Māori.
    • However, it is difficult to open walk in clinics as we do not want people waiting outside and we need to do a booking process.

Gazetting Te Whāriki

Ann Pairman, Paul Whiting, Ministry of Education

The action to “Gazette the curriculum framework, Te Whāriki” is one of the actions in the Early Learning Action Plan (ELAP action 4.1). The principles and strands are already gazetted and have been the legal curriculum framework since 2008.

This action refers to making the goals and learning outcomes of Te Whāriki: He Whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa part of the legal curriculum framework for ECE services and playgroups. This action does not refer to gazetting further parts of Te Whāriki a te Kōhanga Reo.

We are proposing to:

  • Expand the legal curriculum framework to include the goals and learning outcomes of Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa.
  • Combine Parts A and B of the framework into one (English and te reo Māori) to align with the bicultural intent of Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa.

Why are we making this change?

  • The principles, strands, goals and learning outcomes of Te Whāriki: He Whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa each play a different role in enabling kaiako to develop a high-quality local curriculum that reflects their community’s distinctive character and values.
  • Gazetting the full framework of Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa would create clearer expectations about the design and implementation of local curriculum and strengthen quality.
  • The learning outcomes are part of ERO’s new Akarangi | Quality Evaluations, Te Ara Poutama – indicators of quality for early childhood education: what matters most framework for evaluating quality and focusing improvement.
  • The new Gazetted requirements would be supported by other actions in the ELAP such as developing a sustained and planned approach to PLD.

Next steps:

  • The Ministry is planning a period of formal public consultation on gazetting Te Whāriki in the second half of 2021. Closer to the time, we will notify services of this through the Early Learning Bulletin and provide an online discussion document and survey for people to comment on.
  • Before this, the Ministry is undertaking early engagement to answer questions about gazetting Te Whāriki, including meeting with interested stakeholders who would like to discuss the proposed change. We invite ECAC members to contact us if they would like to discuss this work.

Timeline and process

  • March-May 2021 Early engagement
    • Early engagement with Māori medium services and other interested stakeholders.
  • June-July 2021 Online consultation
    • Notice through Early Learning Bulletin
    • Draft curriculum framework published online for feedback
    • Online survey
  • August 2021
    • Report to Minister
  • October 2021
    • New curriculum framework published in the New Zealand Gazette
  • TBC
    • Gazetted curriculum framework becomes legal requirement

Other items and wrap up

Katrina Casey, Ministry of Education

  • Jill Bond closed the meeting with a karakia.
Action items Responsibility Deadline
John to send Equity Index meeting notes with the March minutes.  John Brooker 3 June 2021
Present an update on URF at the next ECAC meeting. Pamela Cohen & Georgina Muir 3 June 2021
Ministry to provide a new set of examples for URF to give insight into Kōhanga Reo. Pamela Cohen & Georgina Muir 3 June 2021
ECAC members want a summary of the initiatives that the URF has been responding to. Pamela Cohen & Georgina Muir 3 June 2021
Further explain why actions 1.2, 1.3, 2.2, 3.6, 4.1, 5.6, and 5.7 in the ELAP Dashboard have shifted from the original timeframe. Nancy Bell 3 June 2021
Detail why the amber coloured actions have been delayed in the ELAP Dashboard. Nancy Bell 3 June 2021
Produce a forward-looking schedule for ELAP in 2022 and onward. Nancy Bell 3 June 2021
Minister to attend next ECAC meeting.  Ministry of Education 3 June 2021
Present during the next face-to-face meeting on 3 June to discuss and give an update. Ministry of Health June 2021

MoH to send Katrina Vaccine information to distribute in fortnightly bulletin.

Ministry of Health ASAP
MoE to provide MoH updates regularly in Bulletin on the vaccine rollout and ensure links we provide are the “source of the truth”. Ministry of Education ASAP
Nicola Woollaston said that she would provide some information she has on “needle fear” to support information sharing. Nicola Woollaston 3 June 2021
Proposed to have a zoom meeting in May to cover off Budget 2021. Ministry of Education ASAP
Submit agenda items for next meeting in June. All ECAC members 3 May 2021

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