ECAC minutes September 2023

The Early Childhood Advisory Committee (ECAC) met from 9am to 3:30pm on 6 September 2023 at the Generator Bowen Campus in Wellington.


ECAC Members

  • Kelly Seaburg, Advocates for Early Learning Excellence
  • Pauline Winter, Auckland Kindergarten Association (AKA)
  • Rebecca Chatwin, Barnardos New Zealand
  • Cindy Young, 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 (EIAANZ)
  • Raewyn Overton-Stuart, Home Early Learning Organisation (HELO)
  • Cathy Wilson, Montessori Aotearoa New Zealand (MANZ)
  • Allanah Clark, NZEI Te Riu Roa
  • Geena Fagan, NZEI Te Riu Roa
  • Tere Gilbert, Ngā Puna Reo o Aotearoa
  • Jill Bond, NZ Kindergartens Inc.
  • Hellen Puhipuhi, Pasifika Advisory Group
  • Karen Affleck, Steiner Education, Aotearoa
  • Lesley Hoskin, Teaching Council of Aotearoa
  • Ann Stewart (morning), Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu, NZ Correspondence School
  • Cherie Marks, Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust
  • Kathy Wolfe, Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood NZ.

ECAC Guests

  • Hon. Jo Luxton, 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
  • Paul Scholey, Senior Policy Manager, ECE and System Policy, Te Pou Kaupapahere|Policy
  • Sarah Strong, Manager, ECE Operational Funding, Te Pae Aronui|Operations
    Megan Hutchison, Chief Advisor, Early Learning, Te Tai Runga|South
  • Rory Sudfelt, Principal Analyst, Data and Insights, Te Pae Aronui|Operations
  • Graham Bussell, Chief Policy Analyst, ECE and System Policy, Te Pou Kaupapahere|Policy
  • Debra Taylor, Manager, Data and Insights, Te Pae Aronui|Operations.


  • Kristen Sharma, Senior Advisor, Te Tai Runga|South (minutes).


  • Fiona Hughes, BestStart Educare
  • Sam Christians , NZ Home-based Early Childhood Education Association
  • Nicola Woollaston, Hospital Play Specialists
  • Ann Stewart (afternoon), Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu, NZ Correspondence School
  • Susan Bailey, Playcentre Aotearoa.

Welcome, karakia and introductions

Nancy Bell

  • Nancy welcomed the group and Kathy Wolfe opened the meeting with a karakia.
  • June minutes were confirmed after noting that Geena Fagan was an apology.
  • The outstanding item to invite ERO to present to the group will be held over to a forward agenda. Apologies were noted. 

Unpacking recent announcements

John Brooker

  • John provided an overview of announcements that were made the previous week regarding pay parity, review of the ECE funding model, and changes to 20 hours ECE funding conditions for home-based services. 
  • A question was raised about what had flowed through to the 1 December 2023 salary levels, given changes and backdating in some of the collective agreements. John explained that the 1 December 2023 salaries, that education and care services have to attest to, take into account the December 2022 salary changes in the KTCA, the PTCA and STCA changes in July 2023 and the 1 December 2023 KTCA changes.
  • Members also asked about feedback from the Pay Parity consultation, asked if the Ministry could share modelling and assumptions made when setting the rates (including funding from parents’ fees) and expressed some concerns regarding the process for the Technical Advisory Group for 20 Hours ECE.
  • Members asked about implications of any new government on the pay parity settings and expressed uncertainty for the future. John acknowledged concerns but explained that in the end decisions a new Government makes are up to them, and no current Government has the ability to definitively influence the decisions of a future Government.

Associate Minister of Education

Hon. Jo Luxton

  • Nancy welcomed Hon Luxton and Iona Holsted.
  • The Minister thanked members for recent meetings with her and acknowledged the work of members in advocating for the early learning sector. The Minister welcomed questions from members.
  • Members discussed various topics with the Minister, including a funding review (timeframe, independence, and remuneration of teachers), taking culture into consideration within absence rules, work with the home-based sector, changes to the Person Responsible requirements, and changes to the Network Management regulations.
  • A question was brought up about new changes to regulations requiring Network Management to be taken into account when amending licences, and implications for centres. Iona stated the messaging on how these changes will work will be clear in the Bulletin.
  • Minister Luxton noted the importance of immunisation for tamariki and encouraged members to raise awareness in their networks.

Early Learning Action Plan update

Megan Hutchison

Megan introduced the Early Learning Action Plan dashboard and highlighted that the Kōwhiti Whakapae website, which introduces tools to support children’s social and emotional learning, will be launched this month. This is the culmination of work since 2020 and an exciting milestone.

  • A clarification question was asked about the RAG status updates and what ‘green’ means (the timeframe for being ‘on track’).
  • Nancy explained that a 3-year window is applied to RAG status, and noted the intention that the dashboard and timeframes will be reviewed post-election in consultation with the new government.

Megan discussed the changes to methodology for counting service numbers on page 2 of the dashboard and welcomed the team to give updates on some key areas of progress.

Regulatory update by Paul Scholey

Paul gave an update on the developments in the regulatory review workstream since June.

  • Agreed that the implications of the new change to reg 33 to consider network approvals will be worked though at a future operational ECAC meeting.
  • Members raised concerns about the changes to Person Responsible and the implications for services.
  • Concerns were raised about workforce, and about the regional teams’ approach to managing regulatory compliance.

Network management by Ray McMillan

Ray updated members on the launch of the new interactive network dashboard which provides data around population and licensed services, as well as existing network approvals in areas.

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

Ray briefly spoke about his background and history of regulatory work.

  • Questions and comments followed on a model to manage risk.

Data and Insights by Rory Sudfelt

Rory presented data on new and cancelled licences.

  • Nancy stressed the importance of this information: a decline in services, but the population is also declining. At a systems level, do we have the right number of places and the rights forms of service for the number of children.
  • Members thanked Rory for providing the data, and asked for another layer to the data, to hear the reasons for closures – instigated by owner or Ministry.
  • Nancy stated that we can provide what we know. Service providers are not required to give reasons for closure.

ECE funding overview

John Brooker

  • John presented on the history of ECE funding so that members understand the reasons for the funding system we currently have.
  • Members raised the suggestion they had made about having flexibility at the edges of the 80-99% and 100% funding bands, noting the current practice is not flexible and encourages the use of relievers.
  • John explained that introducing flexibility at the edges of the funding bands creates a fiscal cost (as more providers would be funded at a higher band than was otherwise the case) and is a policy change. A shift like this would require a Cabinet decision. The appropriations are forecast-driven, and where providers sit against the funding bands is part of the forecast process. This means when more FCH are demanded at higher funding bands, this is treated as a forecast change in the Budget process and the Ministry/Minister of Education does not have to specifically bid for the funding. However, the flipside of this is when demand lowers the cost, the funding is returned to the centre through the Budget process.

Workshop session: Funding review

Nancy Bell, Andy Jackson, John Brooker

Part 1

Nancy asked members what the most important things are to address through a funding review.

Members were provided with a list of statements to rank as a group (with any outliers recorded). Members could change wording, add statements and delete statements. They could add details or examples in the ‘clarification’ column on their sheet. Sheets were handed in.

Part 2

Andy explained the key principles of a funding system. He provided examples of a ‘principle’, and a ‘policy setting’ based on that principle.

Andy asked members to work in groups to look at principles and settings: what do members see as important, so that we can check we have the current settings right. This will help inform advice on the scope of any potential review.

Each group reported back:

  • One group reported that they need more time to digest this, although they would like to see a complete overhaul of the system to make it tamariki-centric. They would like a radically different system where funding follows a child through the system to school and includes additional needs. Manage transitions and future success.
  • Another group agreed, but also thought a less radical approach could still be child-centric, with more funding for learning support.
  • A third group stated that a constraint is that the sector’s starting point is the current settings and their current knowledge. They wondered if an expert could help with blue-sky thinking to identify what an ultimate system might be, what principles might drive that, then be more realistic about what extra funding might achieve some of that.
  • One member felt the discussion was too granular and transactional for now and echoed the idea of needing to determine what the ideal looks like, then move back from there. More time and thinking are needed.
  • A comment was made that if we continue down the current path, it is a layer on top of another layer, leaving a mess for the future of an increasingly complex system with too many rules.

Discussion then turned to quality, and that this is not a Profit/Non-Profit divide. Both community and private services need quality outcomes for tamariki. Comments were made that all services need to make some profit to put back into resources, and that smaller providers don’t have economies of scale so need support.

Parent voice is also needed. Members commented that services understand parents’ perspectives and that we need community voices that haven’t been heard, such as disability.

Andy reflected to members that it sounded like they want a system review, which they agreed. Andy stated that this is a different process from a funding review and more complex. He summarised that members had said they want to fund by differentiated educational models rather than ownership types.

Improving immunisation

Nancy Bell

Responding to Minister Luxton’s concern about immunisation levels, Nancy asked members for ideas to improve immunisation rates of early learners.

Members talked about mistrust from some parents due to Covid. Relationships are important to build up trust first. Parents trust early learning services and services have the relationship with parents.

Members stressed that services need time and resources to work with parents, and that teachers also need education.

Ideas included:

  • Nurses funded to come to early learning services from local GP offices.
  • Nurses doing health checks and immunisations for children in emergency accommodation (Build relationship first).
  • Health workers in vans going to the children.
  • Look at what worked during COVID – eg, Use of Iwi organisations, Māori Women’s Welfare League. Working with trusted people in the community.
  • Educating parents, including education on misconceptions of tino rangatiratanga.
  • Services funded to release teachers to support this process.
  • Use of Tik Tok.
  • Give centres $1000 to support immunisations to happen there, as centres already have relationships with health providers. Feeling there would be strong uptake because services can see the direct benefit to their children and families of improved immunisation rates.

A member cautioned that some contexts are very polarised. A softly, softly approach is needed or it could fuel the divide.

Wrap up

Nancy Bell

  • 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.

Meeting close

Kathy Wolfe

Kathy closed the meeting with a karakia.

Actions Responsibility Deadline
Check with the modelling team what modelling and assumptions can be shared John Brooker 6 December 2023
Clear messaging in Bulletin about Network Management and expansion of existing licenses Paul Scholey As soon as practicable
Discuss changes to reg 33 in regard to taking network into account at future operational ECAC meeting Paul Scholey October 2023
Distribute slides from closures presentation Kristen Sharma As soon as possible
Provide members with reasons for service closures for the year ended June 2023 Rory Sudfelt 6 December 2023
Distribute slides from ECE Funding Overview presentation Kristen Sharma As soon as possible

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