Early childhood education numbers rising in region

AUDREY MALONE
Last updated 05:00 30/07/2014

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South Canterbury may be bucking the trend of decreasing numbers in public sector early childhood education.

The Government has a goal of 98 per cent of all children attending early childhood education centres (ECE) by 2016. Attendance numbers have increased by 40 per cent in the past 10 years to 90,603.

Figures point to a growing trend for private early childhood centres to have higher patronage over public kindergartens.

However, South Canterbury Free Kindergarten Association general manager Dave Hawkey said it was not the case here.

"They are not on the decline in South Canterbury. We have waiting lists at some of our kindergartens. We opened a kindergarten on North St less than a year ago and it is almost full," he said.

Hawkey believed the future for public-funded ECE was strong in South Canterbury.

Minister of Education Hekia Parata said $1.5 billion had been invested in ECE, including 20 hours funding for all families. She said research showed the early childhood years were vital to a child's development.

Meanwhile, Barnados Kidstart visiting teacher Anne Richmond said she was not surprised by the national figures and believed private education facilities would continue to grow in numbers in South Canterbury.

"I agree with the stats. It's due to operating hours. More and more parents need to go out to work now," she said.

Richmond said the Ministry of Social Development encouraging solo parents back into the workforce was another reason centres with longer opening hours were being favoured.

"Obviously being at home with mum is the ideal. However, if it means it is a way for a better future for the family then that's a big positive."

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- The Timaru Herald

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