Seven: New Zealand: A narrative of shifting policy directions for early childhood education and care

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This chapter examines the extent to which disadvantaged children are able to access high quality early childhood education and care in New Zealand. It chronicles the remarkable changes in ECEC policy over the past few decades, with the establishment of a universal entitlement to preschool for three and four year olds, subsidies for children under three, and a commitment to quality that included the goal of having 100% of staff in the sector be qualified teachers. While New Zealand has now entered a period of retrenchment (with a freeze in funding and a revision of the teacher target to 80% rather than 100%), at least part of the stated purpose for this is to free up funds that can be focused on increasing access and quality for the most vulnerable children. It remains to be seen what the net effect of these reforms will be for disadvantaged children, and for the system as a whole.

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