ECAC Minutes, September 2021

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


Special Guests

  • Hon Chris Hipkins, Minister of Education
  • Iona Holsted, Te Tumu Whakarae mō te Mātauranga | Secretary for Education
  • David Choat, Specialist Ministerial Advisor, Office of Hon Chris Hipkins
  • Jessica Shaw, Private Secretary – Education, Office of Hon Chris Hipkins

ECAC members

  • Cathy Wilson, Montessori Aotearoa New Zealand (MANZ)
  • Jenny Te Punga-Jurgens, Christian Early Childhood Education Association of Aotearoa
  • Jill Bond, NZ Kindergartens Inc.
  • Heather Taylor, Barnardos New Zealand
  • Kathy Wolfe, Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood NZ
  • Nicola Woollaston, Hospital Play Specialists
  • Dr Darius Singh, Early Childhood Council
  • Sue Kurtovich, Early Childhood Council
  • Raewyn Overton-Stuart, Home Early Learning Organisation (HELO)
  • Susan Bailey, NZ Playcentre Federation
  • Shelley Hughes, NZEI Te Riu Roa 
  • Stephanie Mills, NZEI Te Riu Roa
  • Michelle Pratt, Advocates for Early Learning Excellence 
  • Emily Dakin, Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust
  • Ann Malir, Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu
  • Hellen Puhipuhi, Pasifika Advisory Group
  • Arapera Royal-Tangaere, Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust
  • Karen Affleck, Steiner Education Aotearoa NZ
  • Erin Maloney, NZ Home-based Early Childhood Education Association
  • Sandra Collins, Education Review Office (ERO)
  • Calmar Ulberg, Early Childhood Leadership Group
  • Jayne Franklin, Teaching Council of Aotearoa
  • Lee Jones, Early Intervention Association of  Aotearoa New Zealand (EIAANZ)
  • Pauline Winter, Auckland Kindergarten Association

Ministry of Education

  • Helen Hurst, Tumu Te Hāpai ō Rāngai | Te Hāpai ō Rāngai, Deputy Secretary, Sector Enablement and Support
  • Nancy Bell, Associate Deputy Secretary, Resourcing and Early Learning Delivery
  • Karen Walfisch, Group Manager, ECE Resourcing and Operations
  • Elspeth Maxwell, Manager, ECE Operational Policy
  • Sarah Strong, Manager, ECE Funding
  • Deborah Kent, Associate Deputy Secretary, ELSA Student Achievement
  • Simon Mandal–Johnson Senior Manager, ELSA Education Workforce
  • John Brooker, Group Manager, Education System Policy
  • Siobhan Murray, Senior Manager, ECE Policy
  • Graham Bussell, Analyst, ECE Policy
  • Esa Samani, Manager, ELSA Curriculum Futures
  • Denise Arnerich, Senior Manager, ELSA Curriculum Futures
  • Hannah Grun, Administrator, ECE Regulations and Planning


  • Donovan Clarke, Early Childhood Leadership Group
  • Angus Hartley, Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust
  • Sandie Burn, NZEI Te Riu Roa

Welcome, karakia and introductions

Nancy Bell, Associate Deputy Secretary, Resourcing and Early Learning Delivery

  • Nancy welcomed the group and Cathy Wilson opened the meeting with a karakia.
  • Welcome to Dr Darius Singh, President of Early Childhood Council.
  • Welcome to Sue Kurtovich, Acting CEO, Early Childhood Council.
  • Welcome to Fiona Hughes, Deputy Chief Executive at Best Start.
  • Welcome to Michelle Pratt from Advocates for Early Learning Excellence.
  • Apologies were circulated by email, prior to the meeting.

Minister’s attendance

Hon Chris Hipkins, Minister of Education

The Minister extended the Government’s thanks to everyone in the sector supporting whānau and communities through these challenging times.

Pay Parity

The Ministry has been working with centres to provide more information about the financial impacts of steps 1-6 of pay parity. For some early learning services, the funding rates proposed will allow them to deliver step 1-6 of the pay parity. For others it will be challenging.

The Minister explained that there has been consideration of deferring step 6 of pay parity to January 2023, instead of January 2022. This would:

  • Maximise the uptake of the opt in for the pay parity funding rate.
  • Offer the opportunity to provide further funding through next year’s budget (before the 6th step would come into effect).
  • Allow time to work through some of the issues that centres have raised around extended parity issues between those undertaking supervisory roles and those who are not.

The Minister acknowledged the disappointment that teachers may have hoping for step 6 from early next year. However, increasing the number of centres who can opt into the scheme is likely to be beneficial to a greater number of teachers overall.

ECAC members were asked to keep working with the Ministry over the next couple of months to continue to improve the information available for modelling (which is important when the next salary instalment of pay parity comes around). The huge diversity of operating models in the sector means that it’s difficult to get it right for everyone but the hope is to get this much closer next time.

Discussion Points

  • Members expressed concern that teachers may be more than disappointed in the delay and may feel betrayed by the decision. The concern was that while there are different models across the sector, this may not incentivise people to stay in the workforce. It may also disincentivise employers who have already committed to doing the best thing by being transparent in their collective agreements about opting in. Many teachers may doubt the Government’s commitment to pay parity.

    The Minister clarified that those centres that have already signed up to collective agreements based on the proposed funding rates to offer step 6 will still be able to do that.

  • There was a member question about why dropping step 6 was the chosen approach to addressing affordability when there were other models proposed by the sector a few weeks ago. These included assisting centres to reach that degree of affordability and focusing on steps 1 to 3 with the intent to increment forward.

    The Minister confirmed that there is currently no opportunity for additional funds as an immediate solution.

  • A member expressed concern about what was being prioritised in the Early Learning Action Plan (ELAP), at the expense of the funding model. The view of many members was that the importance of the funding model has been raised several times for years and if the funding model work isn’t advanced soon, it will get harder to provide quality ECE across the country.

    The Minister explained that other steps in the ELAP could have been undertaken faster but that pay parity was prioritised. He felt the sector had given very clear feedback that pay conditions were a big issue impacting recruitment and retention. He confirmed that the funding model work is still very important but pay parity implementation has taken the Ministry’s focus at this time.

  • A member suggested that an initial discussion and scoping up the terms of reference for the review could be a good first step, even if the work can’t progress immediately, which could help set a planned timetable. The Secretary for Education explained that the implementation of Te Mahau on 4 October presents an opportunity to approach prioritisation of effort differently, including policy effort.

Secretary for Education, Iona Holsted

Te Mahau

The Secretary for Education (The Secretary) presented an update on the establishment of Te Mahau within Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga and described the emphasis on relationships with the sector. The three DCEs of Te Mahau were announced as:

  • Isabel Evans
    Deputy Secretary, Te Mahau (North)
  • Jocelyn Mikaere
    Deputy Secretary, Te Mahau (Central)
  • Nancy Bell
    Deputy Secretary, Te Mahau (South)

The Secretary sought to gain the collective views of this ECAC group, to inform an ongoing conversation about how the operating model can ensure that Te Mahau works most effectively with the sector.

Prior to this meeting, she had presented the following two questions to ECAC members via email:

  • How would you describe the experience of the services and relationships between the sector and a well-performing Te Mahau two to three years out from now?
  • What are the most important and/or first things we would work on together?

Discussion Points

  • A member noted that within a couple of years the sector and Te Mahau would be finding local solutions to local problems, which goes hand in hand with that greater local autonomy and decision making. This would build trust and confidence between the sector and the Ministry to collectively improve the experience for everyone. It would allow things to shift more easily at the regional level.

  • Members support the ECAC forum to continue, as well as the approach of a decentralised model to address more local needs. The model shows a ‘close to stakeholder’ approach, which is promising, however also has a danger of the three regions running inconsistently.

    The Secretary responded that local solutions are not intended to lead to localised regulation. There are two things to manage here: A regulatory function that is applied fairly and consistently across the country; And the growth and innovation of local solutions.

  • The question was asked if ECAC members will have an opportunity to shape the underpinning principles and design of the regional engagement and partnerships. It was noted that rebuilding trust and confidence was key. The journey to get to the ideal may be quite challenging.

    The Secretary noted that most engagement will be at the local front facing level. If ECAC wants to have an overarching view of what’s happening in Te Mahau development process, input on how this could happen is welcome. It makes sense that the Te Mahau leaders participate at this level directly with ECAC members. There needs to be two-way trust and confidence. It is expected that ECAC is the place where this access to the Ministry continues.

  • A question was raised to see if there could be opportunities for some of our people to experience working in the Ministry and vice versa – that lived experience helps build understanding. This is a big opportunity for the sector to work quite differently strategically and locally.

    The Secretary noted that while all of this takes some time to build, these kinds of ideas are integral to the Te Mahau model.
  • There was a query about the potential need to redefine the ECAC membership and purpose.

    The Secretary offered some knowledge around the history of the ECAC forum, with support from members. ECAC started out as an information sharing group, that was a convenient way to bring people together. It has morphed overtime and become bigger. It is now a dedicated forum to thinking about strategic intent. Within ECAC it’s not always possible to reach total agreement on policies, but it would be constraining to expect agreement on everything. Having a range of views is key. Inclusivity in also fundamental to the forum, ensuring smaller parts of the sector have a seat at the table.

Pay Parity

John Brooker, Ministry of Education

John presented a summary on pay parity following the Minister’s proposed change.

Key dates were outlined, noting they were conditional on the Minister’s agreement:

  • The ECE Funding Handbook updated with pay parity rates and associated conditions on MOE’s website early in the week of 6 September 2021.
  • Services indicating they wish to opt into the parity rates and associated conditions can from 1 October as part of the RS7 Return - submitted by first week of November for services wanting their advance paid at parity rates (paid on 20 November).
  • First funding payment rates will commence 1 November 2021.
  • Requirement to pay teachers at prescribed pay steps will commence 1 January 2022.
  • Next opportunity to opt in/out of pay parity rates will be February 2022.

A member asked if there was an opportunity for services to opt in over time?

  • John responded that yes there are multiple opportunities, however once someone has opted in, it’s hard for them to opt out.

A member asked if there were three opportunities a year to opt in and out.

  • Yes, at each of the funding drops there is the opportunity to opt in and out.

John summarised fundamental points of the pay parity Initiative:

  • The number of pay steps required – these will be confirmed next week, as indicated by the Minister.
  • The parity funding rates will remain the same as those set out in May and will be confirmed in the ECE Funding Handbook.
  • Opt-in to parity rates will be through an extension of the attestation mechanism for minimum certificated teacher salaries. This is to be submitted with other RS7 information required from services.
  • The confirmed conditions mirror pay-related conditions and approaches in the KTCA to create consistency of pay parity.

John ran through some key conditions:

  • Minimum required Kiwisaver employer contributions are to be counted on top of the pay step amount.
  • Besides qualifications and certificated teaching experience, the initial pay step may also reflect KTCA-defined previous relevant work experience.
  • The detail and complete set of requirements, including record-keeping conditions, should be read in the ECE Funding Handbook – available from next week.

Discussion Points

  • There was positive feedback that a full pay parity approach has been taken in terms of the application of those pay related conditions in the KTCA. While many aren’t happy with the funding mechanism itself, it’s important that parity is sustained and is truly fair across the sector.
  • Is there an opportunity for sector organisations to get an advance copy of the extra chapter to the funding handbook? Full understanding is required to be able to answer questions from staff.
    The Ministry responded that they should be well placed to have this ready for when the Minister makes his announcement. Further clarification on what can be shared will be sought and provided.

ELAP Dashboard: Update

Nancy Bell, Ministry of Education

Moving into Te Mahau, the Ministry would like more information in the sector about significant work programmes. The communications team is currently developing an Early Learning roadmap that maps out the various work across the Ministry. The need for transparency in when and how the work has been moving forward has been noted. This new roadmap should be published within the next month.

The ELAP dashboard is a two pager, found on the website. It is designed to help track where the actions in the plan are at and it is updated for each ECAC meeting.

The Ministry has been working with ERO around an evaluative framework for the ELAP – paying attention to what trends we are seeing in children’s participation, the quality-of-service provision and equity of access and outcomes.

Discussion Points

  • ECAC members discussed areas of improvement for the dashboard. The ELAP dashboard should be easier to find on the website, and changes should be more visible from one version to the next. There should also be further clarity on the drivers that push the work in the plan forward to stay on track and on time.
  • There was an explanation on the process for agreeing priorities with the Minister. Regular updates are provided on how the plan is progressing. If the Minister tells the Ministry to adapt or reprioritise progress, this is advised to ECAC members.
  • Nancy advised that the Ministry had worked with ERO on an ELAP evaluation framework. They worked together to identify key measures across the plan.
  • A member asked what can be expected as a result of the evaluation framework and how the sector can input. There was a discussion around EDK and ERO people coming to an ECAC meeting. They could discuss the framework, what they are looking to measure and gather feedback. The intention is the Ministry is going to regularly publish an evaluation that looks at these measures across the ELAP.

Consultation on Tranche 2 Regulatory Proposals

Siobhan Murray, Ministry of Education

Consultation has been slightly delayed due to Covid-19. There are two timeframes for these consultations. These are:

  • For changes to qualifications required for the home-based ECE standard funding rate, the time frame is 27 August to 27 September 2021.
  • For all other proposals, the time frame is 8 September – 13 October 2021.

There are three main areas for the consultation opening on 8 September:

  • Network management
  • 80% qualified teachers and strengthening the person responsible role in teacher-led centres and hospital-based services
  • Strengthening the person responsible role in home-based services.

Network management is one of the actions in the ELAP. The Education and Training Act 2020 introduced new provisions to manage the network of new early learning services. The Ministry needs to design an approach to implement the new provisions and be ready for 1 August 2022 implementation.

The proposed changes were outlined. These include introducing National and Regional Statements, assessments looking at whether the applicant is ‘fit and proper’, the financial position of the applicant, and the capability to deliver the service.

Regulating for 80% qualified teachers is also an action in the ELAP. There are three different options which are intended to elicit feedback about what would work. They are:

  • Option 1: Retaining a high percentage of ECE qualified teachers
  • Option 2: Match Regulations with funding rules
  • Option 3: Ensuring ECE qualified teachers are always present.

The home-based proposals arise from decisions made as part of the 2018 Review of Home-based ECE. The consultation on qualification requirements must be implemented on 1 January 2022, which is why this has a different consultation period.

The consultation will include discussion documents, summary documents on each area, an online hui and online survey. There may be some face to face meetings in relation to the 80% proposals if COVID alert levels allow.

Discussion Points

  • ECAC members discussed the importance of recognising unintended consequences from a managed network. These include developers losing confidence that it’s worth investing in early learning services; new and potentially better services becoming blocked in oversaturated areas; and parental fees for services going up substantially.
  • The intent of the National and Regional Statements is to make much clearer to the sector where there is under and over supply, also what types of services are needed.
  • ECAC members asked what happens for services that are currently under development – will the new process apply according to the current proposals? According to the current proposal, if the Ministry is provided with a full application before 1 August, the old process will apply. After this date, the new process will apply. Siobhan welcomed feedback on how the transition time is managed.
  • There was some concern that regulation for 80% qualified teachers will have a negative impact at some services.

NZ Curriculum Refresh

Esa Samani and Denise Arnerich, Ministry for Education

Esa and Denise provided an overview of the New Zealand Curriculum Refresh:

  • The refreshed curriculum will align to the National Education and Learning Priorities (NELP). It will have a bicultural and inclusive framework, be clear about the most important learning and easy for teachers to use. The curriculum will be refreshed using an iterative co-design process with young people at the centre.
  • Mātauranga Māori, key competencies, literacy and numeracy will be woven throughout the refreshed curriculum. A consistent content structure and progression model will make it easier for teachers to use. It will be available digitally through the new Online Curriculum Hub with direct links to supporting resources.
  • Over the next five years we will work collaboratively with different groups of people to refresh the curriculum by the end of 2025. The aim is to have all schools using the refreshed curriculum.

Esa and Denise would like the opportunity to delve into deeper discussions at a later ECAC as the project progresses.

Safety Checking of Children’s Workers

Sue Kurtovich, Early Childhood Council

Sue explained her dissatisfaction of the current definition of a ‘children’s worker’ as interpreted by the Ministry. It seems ambiguous in comparison to the definition written in the Children’s Act. While a technical point, Sue feels the Ministry are being overly rigorous on the level of who is a children’s worker.

  • Ministry attendees were unaware that there is a disparity in definitions. It was requested that Sue send her query to the ECE Info mailbox, so the Ministry can investigate this and respond accordingly.

Other items and wrap up

Nancy Bell, Ministry of Education

ECAC members suggested it is useful having the regular Covid zoom ECAC meetings as the alert levels change. Producing questions in advance is helpful.

Nancy closed the meeting with a karakia.

Action items Responsibility Deadline
Ministry to send ECAC members the terms of reference. Secretariat ASAP
Members to propose recommendations and thoughts to Iona on what ECAC might look like in terms of its principles, composition and in relation to the new operating model. Sector Members 1 December 2021
Clarify what the implementation plan for the extra chapter to the Funding Handbook is and factor in as much as possible a staggered release. Karen Walfisch ASAP
Make ELAP dashboard easier to find on the website and make changes more visible from one version to the next. Nancy Bell 1 Dec 2021
Send out the evaluative ELAP framework and have an EDK and ERO representative come along to the next meeting to discuss the framework. Nancy Bell 1 Dec 2021
Circulate link to Ministry’s early learning road map when published. Nancy Bell On publication
Ministry to respond directly to Sue’s query about the Safety Checking of Children’s Workers. MOE ASAP

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