Victoria offering $50,000 incentive for New Zealand early childhood teachers to cross the ditch

  • 12/03/2024

Australia's launched a campaign to poach our early childhood educators, offering up $50,000 ($53,650 NZD) incentives to jump the ditch.  

But Early Childhood New Zealand chief executive Kathy Wolfe warns we shouldn't let this distract from work to improve the sector here.

Wolfe told AM on Tuesday that Australia and other countries have always looked at New Zealand in awe because of our 80 to 100 percent teachers in early childhood care.

However, lately she said there have been struggles with shortages.

The organisation has a petition in Parliament to implement a 1:4 ratio for children under three years of age attending early childhood education. 

At the moment Wolfe said that figure is sitting at 1:5 or 1:6 for under 3s and about 1:10 for over 3s.

"Our ratios aren't as good as they should be but with teacher shortages that is a challenge, but we're still aspiring to meet those ratios," she said.

"Having a professional, qualified workforce is critical in terms of the child's first 1000 days and teachers need to be qualified to understand that and to practice is and to use our Te Whāriki curriculum to make sure that they can educate our children and get them ready for their lifelong learning. 

"Now it is about working through how we're actually going to attract and retain teachers in New Zealand, and for us and the sector leaders this is what we want to focus on and we want to work with the Government on how we do that." 

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon earlier said on AM New Zealand had attracted 1000 teachers from overseas in the past year.

He added that the way to combat poaching efforts from overseas was to make our economy stronger.

It comes as Victoria, Australia has launched a campaign, Best Start Best Life, offering kindy teachers up to $50,000 ($53,650 NZD) incentives to jump the ditch. 

Wolfe said we shouldn't get distracted by what's happening in Australia.

She reiterated Luxon's point that New Zealand has attracted educators from around the world, including Asia, Africa and Europe.

"We do focus, also, when we bring teachers into New Zealand is making sure that they understand our curriculum and how we educate children in early childhood in New Zealand." 

Wolfe said we needed to make sure that we incrementally invest in early childhood because "we don't want the risks to New Zealand and for our teachers with the campaigns that are happening across the ditch".