ECAC minutes March 2024

The Early Childhood Advisory Committee (ECAC) met from 9am to 2pm on Wednesday 6 March 2024 at the Generator Bowen Campus in Wellington.


ECAC members

  • Michelle Pratt, Advocates for Early Learning Excellence
  • Pauline Winter, Auckland Kindergarten Association
  • Heather Taylor, Barnardos New Zealand
  • Fiona Hughes, BestStart Educare
  • Liza Iliffe, Christian Early Childhood Education Association of Aotearoa
  • Simon Laube, Early Childhood Council
  • Christine Hall, Early Childhood Leadership Group
  • Lee Jones, Early Intervention Association of Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Patricia Davey, Education Review Office
  • Raewyn Overton-Stuart, Home Early Learning Organisation
  • Nadia Abu Shanab, NZEI Te Riu Roa
  • Geena Fagan, NZEI Te Riu Roa
  • Tere Gilbert, Ngā Puna Reo o Aotearoa
  • Penelope Janes, NZ Home-based Early Childhood Education Association (alternate of Janelle Gardiner)
  • Jill Bond, NZ Kindergartens
  • Anna Steel, NZ Playcentre Federation
  • Hellen Puhipuhi, Pasifika representative
  • Karen Affleck, Steiner Education Aotearoa
  • Rose-Anne London, Teaching Council of Aotearoa (alternate of Sharon Coulton)
  • Helen Gatward, Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu, NZ Correspondence School
  • Heke Huata, Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust
  • Kathy Wolfe, Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood NZ

ECAC guests

  • Hon David Seymour, Associate Minister of Education
  • Iona Holsted, Te Tumu Whakarae mō te Mātauranga | Secretary for Education 

Ministry of Education

  • Nancy Bell, Hautū | Deputy Secretary, Te Tai Runga (Chair)
  • Andy Jackson, Hautū | Deputy Secretary, Te Pou Kaupapahere | Policy
  • John Brooker, General Manager, ECE and System Policy, Te Pou Kaupapahere | Policy
  • Ray McMillan, General Manager, Network and Regulatory, Te Pae Aronui | Operations
  • Elspeth Maxwell, Manager, Operational Policy Early Learning, Te Pae Aronui | Operations
  • Michelle Unuia, Principal Advisor, NZ Curriculum & Te Whāriki, Te Poutāhū | Curriculum
  • Jonine Nager, Principal Advisor, NZ Curriculum & Te Whāriki, Te Poutāhū | Curriculum
  • Paul Scholey, Senior Policy Manager, ECE and System Policy, Te Pou Kaupapahere | Policy
  • Megan Hutchison, Chief Advisor, Early Learning, Te Tai Runga | South
  • Rory Sudfelt, Principal Analyst, Data and Insights, Te Pae Aronui | Operations
  • Debra Taylor, Manager, Data and Insights, Te Pae Aronui | Operations
  • Jo George-Scott, Manager, Early Learning Network, Network and Regulatory | Te Pae Aronui | Operations
  • Siobhan Murray, Senior Policy Manager, ECE System Investment Policy, Te Pou Kaupapahere | Policy
  • Julia Marshall, Senior Policy Analyst, ECE System Investment Policy, Te Pou Kaupapahere | Policy
  • Kristen Sharma, Senior Advisor, Te Tai Runga | South (Secretariat)

Inland Revenue

  • Elizabeth Lee, Policy Advisor, Policy and Regulatory Stewardship
  • Murray Shadbolt, Principal Policy Advisor, Policy and Regulatory Stewardship
  • Harper Burtenshaw, Policy Advisor, Policy and Regulatory Stewardship
  • Teena Simm, Architect
  • Mariana Hak, Policy Lead, Families and Individuals


  • Emily Dakin, Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust
  • Nicola Woollaston, Hospital Play Specialists
  • Cathy Wilson, Montessori Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Allanah Clark, NZEI Te Riu Roa

Welcome, karakia and introductions

  • Nancy Bell welcomed the group and Raewyn Overton-Stuart opened the meeting with a karakia.
  • New members and alternates were introduced, and apologies noted.
  • December minutes were confirmed.

Secretary for Education Iona Holsted

  • Key words to describe this Government’s approach: discipline, delivery and accountability.
  • Iona explained the relationship between the Minister and Associate Minister and their portfolios. Minister Seymour is responsible for ECE, while Minister Stanford retains curriculum, including Te Whāriki.
  • Iona asked members to think about how Te Whāriki meshes with the schooling curriculum in terms of pedagogy and structured literacy.
  • Ministry of Education’s change programme: the pressure to reduce cost will continue. Key frontline roles have been ring-fenced and recruitment to these will continue, for example roles in Learning Support.
  • Iona explained the context of the Ministry’s property review. Members raised specific questions about ECE property. Iona advised members to email details to Nancy, for consideration in the property review.
  • Minister Seymour is on record as saying he will look at an ECE funding review. The Ministry will work with Minister Seymour on this.
  • Many in the sector feel there is a burden of regulations that collectively don’t make children safer. Members spoke of the day-to-day impact of regulations on teachers, and the impact on retainment and recruitment of staff.
  • For any regulatory or funding issues, Iona requested ECAC members to contact the Ministry first (contact ECAC Secretariat
  • Iona noted that she had received feedback from the sector that they experience an overlap between the Ministry and the Education Review Office (ERO). Iona said that any duplication was wasteful and there was a perfect opportunity to address it. Iona requested members tell the Ministry of such issues (contact ECAC Secretariat
  • Nancy noted that ERO’s assurance audits are higher level, where centres attest to their systems and processes. The Ministry goes into a centre based on receiving specific information and sees more detailed documentation of a specific situation.
  • A member suggested it would be useful to have a mechanism for raising complaints in a more efficient, locally centred way, before complaints become formal.
  • Regarding workforce, Iona encouraged members to think beyond teachers: who else do we need? What jobs haven’t been invented yet? How do we protect investment in the profession?
  • Iona thanked members for their work, leadership, and engagement with the Ministry.

ECE data: Release of 2023 ECE Census

  • Rory Sudfelt presented on the new adult to child ratio measurement, the factsheets from the 2023 ECE Census and the 2023 Participation Intensity Measure (PIM).
  • To get the clearest picture of ratios, the ECE Census now asks which age group teaching staff spend the majority of their time working with. This is combined with ELI attendance data, at each centre’s busiest time in the ECE Census week.
  • A question was raised about the ratio of children to qualified teachers, rather than all teaching staff. We don’t provide this breakdown for the ratio data but we will consider it for future years of ECE Census reporting.
  • The 2023 ECE Census showed a year-on-year increase in the number of children participating in licensed early childhood services, and the number of teaching staff. There was a year-on-year decrease in the number of licensed services.
  • A member brought up that for some time, the data has shown us that there is a proportion of children who don’t participate in ECE. We need to look at the impact of this as it is of significant public concern. A deep dive into this can be added to a future agenda.
  • A member suggested that when doing a deep dive into participation, look at socio-economic context: paid parental leave and cost of living will have an impact. Other policy drivers may affect parental choice.
  • There have been some successful programmes to encourage ECE participation. Why were they successful and how can they be replicated? Megan to pick this up.
  • PIM data is for 3- and 4-year-olds, as that is where policy is set (based on research into the advantages of participation for 3- and 4-year-olds).
  • Details of upcoming measurements, that the Ministry intend to include in reporting for monitoring and evaluating the Early Learning Action Plan, were briefly shared.

Action items

  • Before 5 June 2024: Add deep dive into participation and non-participation, including a regional focus to June agenda (Kristen Sharma).
  • Before 5 June 2024: Look into details of programmes that resulted in increased participation (Megan Hutchison).

Family Boost from Inland Revenue

  • IRD officials working on Family Boost introduced themselves.
  • Murray Shadbolt gave some background to Family Boost, a 25% rebate. Most of the information currently publicly known is in the manifesto document.
  • IRD will administer the payment as the lead department, working with the Ministry of Social Development, Treasury and the Ministry of Education on providing advice to Ministers.
  • IRD will need information on family details and household income.
  • Unlike the childcare subsidy, which is paid to providers, Family Boost will be paid directly to parents.
  • The IRD team is keen to work with the sector, to identify a good process for finding out the answers to the detailed questions.
  • Murray invited members to ask questions and give feedback
  • Members mentioned equity and barriers to access. Centres may need to support whānau to access Family Boost.
  • Members also wondered if Family Boost would increase their regulatory burden.
  • There is a funding working group that may be able to supply data and test thinking. IRD team to contact Megan for access to this group.
  • IRD officials are welcome to come to the online operational ECAC meetings to consult members.

Draft guidance for curriculum criteria

  • Elspeth Maxwell (operational policy), Michelle Unuia and Jonine Nager (curriculum) introduced themselves and where their teams sit within the Te Mahau structure of the Ministry of Education.
  • Their presentation provided an overview of work underway to update the curriculum guidance that supports the regulated curriculum standard and associated criteria to align with the full framework.
  • They provided background context to the full framework of Te Whāriki coming into effect in May, including Te Ara Māori. They also provided an overview of implementation supports that have either been developed or are in the process of development.
  • Clarified that it is the guidance that is being updated. The licence criteria are not changing.
  • We are ready to test the draft guidance with ECAC members. Copies were handed out and questions posed on the slide. The guidance and questions will be emailed out soon, with 2-3 weeks to give feedback.
  • A working draft will then be released in the bulletin for wider feedback.

Action item

  • Email guidance and questions on guidance (Elspeth Maxwell, done 8 March).

Associate Minister of Education David Seymour

  • Minister Seymour introduced himself to ECAC members, and members introduced themselves and the services they represent to the Minister.
  • The Minister outlined his broad views of the sector and some of the areas which he intends to make changes or seek further work on.
  • Members expressed their willingness to help shape the future.
  • Topics that members brought up with the Minister included: ratios, the sector’s need for data maturity, working at the community level with other sectors, and the effect of Auckland’s infrastructure issues on the sector.

Network planning

  • Jo George-Scott shared data and reflections on the first year of network approval.
  • What we have learnt: Jo noted applicants appear to need support to interpret data on supply and demand. The interactive network management dashboard on Education Counts provides the sector with the data used for decision making, and has been developed to assist applicants and provide transparency. (Note that the 2023 ECE Census data isn’t on this tool as the data is yet to be broken down to SA2 level).
  • The applications received indicate there is a need for mentoring of potential new service providers to strengthen governance understanding and grow capability.
  • An ECAC member suggested that financial forecasting is an area for development for the whole sector.
  • Ray McMillan: it has been signaled that the National Statement will be removed. Timeframes will be communicated to the sector. Until legislation is removed, the requirements are still in place.
  • A member commented that the original concept of network planning was great, but it became burdensome.
  • Another member commented that it focused new service providers on community need.
  • Ray: as we go through the process of unwinding these requirements, we need to take note of the lessons learnt.

The Early Learning Network Dashboard – Education Counts(external link)

Wrap up and close

  • The discussions from the day will be compiled and used to further inform the Ministry’s work.
  • Nancy thanked members for their engagement and participation throughout the day.
  • Raewyn Overton-Stuart closed with a karakia.

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