Thursday, 27 June 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

MPs visit Whenuakite Country Kids

Whenuakite Country Kids (WCK) is a community-owned charity which provides an early childhood education (ECE) service for a rural area of the Coromandel Peninsula stretching from Whitianga and Cooks Beach to Tairua. 

Last week two MPs visited the centre. The MPs were invited to visit in order to obtain first-hand experience of the way the centre is operating and also for the centre’s management, staff and parents to discuss qualified ECE teachers’ pay.

On Tuesday 26 March, Jan Tinetti, the Labour Party’s buddy MP for the Coromandel, visited and on Friday 29 March it was the turn of Coromandel Electorate MP, Scott Simpson of the National Party.

WCK centre supervisor, Trish Robbins, says, “We introduced Scott and Jan to the children and gave them the opportunity to take part in their play-based learning. The MPs were also able to talk to our teachers to get a better understanding of the challenges they face and to parents and whānau who explained how our service benefits their children.

“Both Jan and Scott commented on how confident, friendly and welcoming the children were.

“The MPs also commented on our extensive outdoor spaces and on the overall positive atmosphere throughout our centre. Both MPs got very involved with the children’s activities and spent a great deal of time with us.

“Recently we commented on the government’s draft Strategic Plan for Early Learning. While we value all the initiatives in the plan, we emphasised the importance of a radical improvement in pay for qualified ECE teachers nationwide.” 

Whenuakite Country Kids Chairperson, Jo Mannington, says, “Across New Zealand qualified and dedicated teachers are on a lower hourly rate than holiday cottage cleaners here on the Coromandel Peninsula. The overwhelming majority of ECE funding comes from the government. ECE centres are unable to pay teachers more without additional government funding.” 

Trish says they wrote to all their parents and whānau to encourage them to give input to the draft strategy. “We sent copies of our submission both to the Minister of Education and to our local MP, Scott Simpson, and invited them to visit,” she says. “Scott responded immediately. We are delighted that he was able to visit. When we heard that Jan Tinetti, Labour’s buddy MP for the Coromandel, was to visit Whitianga, we invited her also and it is wonderful that she was also able to visit.”

According to Jo, ECE teachers’ low pay is a nationwide issue. The funding available has been decreasing in real value for years. A small increase this year was below the rate of inflation. “We believe that pay parity with primary teachers is an appropriate initial target,” says Jo. Trained ECE teachers have comparable qualifications and go through the same professional registration and certification processes.”

Trish says, “Research into brain development in babies, toddlers and pre-school children shows how critical quality ECE is in setting young children up for a successful learning future. ECE teachers make a positive lifelong difference to the children that they care for and educate.  We are very lucky to have such a dedicated, diligent and well qualified team.”

Jo is hopeful that both Jan and Scott gained a better understanding of the challenges that ECE centres face and the benefits that they bring. “We believe that ECE is an investment, not a cost,” she says. “One study has estimated a return on investment of $7 for every dollar invested.  When future education budgets are being discussed, we hope that both MPs are sympathetic to bids for increases to ECE funding.”

Whenuakite Country Kids is happy to make their submission on the draft strategy and their letter to parents and whānau available.  If you would like copies, please email the centre’s deputy chair, David Haynes, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Pictured: Whenuakite Country Kids children Emerson Orbell, Ari Hopkins, Kaia Tuinier, Siena Rowland and Annabelle Fang showing Coromandel MP, Scott Simpson, how to pick feijoas on Friday last week.

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.