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Families Taking Adavantage Of Free Education Hours

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Oct 14 NZPA - The number of early childhood education (ECE) centres is expanding to meet increasing demand as families take advantage of the Government's 20 hours free scheme, the Ministry of Education says.

The scheme came under fire yesterday from Dr Sarah Farquhar, an early childhood researcher who has been appointed the new head of the Early Childhood Council.

Dr Farquhar told The Press thousands of children were spending longer in ECE, filling spots which would previously have been given to other toddlers.

"Children who should be getting access to ECE (are) finding it even harder ... because the 20 hours policy is pushing the hours of participation up, but not necessarily the number of places.

"There has been huge unthought of and unintended negative effects on both the sector and on the choices available for parents to make."

Ministry of Education group manager for ECE Karl Le Quesne said there had been "significant" growth in the number of children receiving free hours since the programme was launched in July last year, but said the sector was keeping pace.

"In July 2008, 89 percent of eligible three and four-year-olds were receiving free hours, up from 70 percent in July 2007."

"In the same period the ministry licensed 192 new services, showing the sector continues to expand to meet demand."

A New Zealand Council of Education Research survey released in August showed 15 percent of parents eligible to receive free ECE increased the time their child attended and 19 percent said they had more time for family responsibilities.

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