Provision of early childhood education services
What We Have FoundThe number of early childhood education (ECE) services has grown strongly over time. There were 4,483 licensed services in 30 June 2011, which was an increase of 2.8 % from the previous year and 21.0% from five years before.
This growth more than matched growth of the underlying population of 0-4 year-olds. The number of services per 1,000 0-4 year-olds (age-weighted) grew by 0.8% over the last year and 9.0% over the last five years.
However, the high level of service provision growth has not always matched growth in the demand for ECE. Waiting times rose between 2002 and 2008, indicating growth of demand for ECE relative to actual service provision. Waiting times have since fallen back to their historical levels.
Date Updated: July 2012
Indicator DescriptionThree indicators have been used:
- The number of licensed ECE services1
- the number of licensed ECE services per age-weighted 0-4 year-old population2
- the percentage of services with waiting times of more than six months.
Work is also under way to develop further ways of measuring the extent that the provision of ECE services is meeting the changing demand for ECE over time. A key focus of this work is on exploring robust ways to measure the extent that services are at full capacity.
Why This Is ImportantParticipation in high quality ECE has significant benefits for children and their future learning ability. Some studies have found that engagement in ECE helps to develop strong foundations for future learning success (Statistics NZ and Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, 2010).These effects apply to all children but may be particularly important for building academic achievement in children from poorer communities and socio-economic backgrounds (ibid, and Mitchell, et al, 2008).
ECE has been shown to positively impact literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills well into the teenage years, while other studies have shown that high quality ECE encourages the development of cognitive and attitudinal competencies, and leads to higher levels of achievement and better social outcomes (ibid, OECD, 2011, Statistics NZ and Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, 2010, Wylie et al, 2009).
International and longitudinal studies have also found that participation in high quality ECE can translate into improved longer-term outcomes. Several studies have identified links between participation in ECE and better social and economic outcomes for children when they reach older ages (ibid). This link is, again, strong for disadvantaged children. Some studies have also identified positive relationships between ECE participation and the affect on wider societal outcomes; for example, ensuring participation in the labour force and in building labour force capability (Ministry of Women’s Affairs, 2004).
ECE Participation has been identified as a key factor in supporting vulnerable children which has led to its inclusion in the Better Public Services Programme, launched in 2012. This Programme aims to increase participation in early childhood education to 98 percent of all new entrants by 2016 (State Services Commission, 2012).
If children are to attend ECE, there has to be a sufficient number of services available for them to enrol in. Service provision needs to grow to meet any growth in the underlying population. It also needs to meet growth in the proportion of families wanting their children to attend ECE and to do so for longer hours.
How We Are Going
Number of licensed services
There were 4,483 licensed ECE services at 1 July 2011. This was an increase 2.8% from the year before and 21.0% from five years ago. Annual growth in the number of services has always been positive. It was particular strong in 2009, with growth peaking at 6.8% in August of that year. Since then, annual growth has fallen towards previous levels. See Table 1 and Figure 1.
|Number of services||3,704||3,782||3,923||4,158||4,362||4,483|
|Annual % change||2.0%||2.1%||3.7%||6.0%||4.9%||2.8%|
The higher levels of growth after 2005 and after 2007 followed significant changes to the funding system in both years. In 2005, a new system was introduced that paid services more if they fulfilled certain quality requirements, mostly concerning the qualifications held by their teachers. In 2007, 20 Hours ECE was introduced. Both changes increased the average hourly rates paid to ECE services.
Service growth is also likely to have reflected the rising proportion of children attending ECE and doing so for longer hours (Ministry of Education, 2012). In addition, the 0-4 year-old population grew by around 2 percent annually over the latter half of the period, as discussed in the next section.
Overall levels of growth have not been consistent across all service types, but have been largely driven by growth in the number of education and care services. This is because education and care services make up such a large proportion of licensed ECE services (57%). They grew by 38.5% over the last five years. Home-based services also experienced strong growth over the period (46.6%). By contrast, the other service types have had either low growth or falling numbers. See Table 2 and Figure 2.
|Service type||2006||2007||2008||2009||2010||2011||5 year % change|
|Education & Care||1,850||1,944||2,061||2,257||2,438||2,563||38.5%|
|Te Kōhanga Reo||492||478||475||467||462||460||-6.5%|
|Casual Education & Care/Hospital-based||40||36||36||39||39||38||-6.5%|
Number of licensed services per 1,000 0-4 year-old children
While the number of ECE services has grown, so has the number of 0-4 year-olds. The 0-4 year-old population grew by 9.9% in the 5 years to 1 July 2011. Age-weighted population figures will be used in the rest of this analysis because the likelihood of using ECE varies considerably by age3. The age-weighted 0-4 year-old population grew by 11.0% in the 5 years to 1 July 2011.
The figures show that service growth has been positive, even after taking account of population growth. The number of licensed services per 1,000 0-4 year-olds grew by 0.8% in the year to June 2011 and by 9.0% in the last five years. See Table 3 and Figure 3.
|Number of licensed services||3,704||3,782||3,923||4,158||4,362||4,483|
|Annual % change||2.0%||2.1%||3.7%||6.0%||4.9%||2.8%|
|Annual % change||-0.2%||1.7%||2.1%||2.0%||2.8%||2.0%|
|Services per population (age-weighted)||13.1||13.1||13.4||13.9||14.2||14.3|
|Annual % change||2.3%||0.4%||1.6%||3.9%||2.1%||0.8%|
Figure 3: Annual (month-on-month) percentage growth
Figure 3 suggests that growth in the number of services per population has been more volatile over time than that of the number of services. Its drop in late 2003, rise in early 2005 and drop in 2006/07 were all driven by changes in population growth. Figure 3 also suggests that service growth may not always respond to changes in population growth. The fall in population over the early-2005 to mid-2006 period had no impact on service growth. Indeed, service growth actually rose towards the end of that period and is likely to have instead been driven by changes to the funding system. Service growth from late-2007 onwards also followed changes to the funding system, but this time it was also supported by strong population growth of around 2%.
Percentage of services with a waiting times longer than 6 months
Waiting times refer to the length of time a family wanting their child enrolled in an ECE service would have to wait before the service can take the child in. Anything but a minimal wait indicates that the service is full. If the wait is long, there may well be other children also waiting to start. A high proportion of services with long waiting times therefore suggests a high level of unmet demand, i.e. that the number of services able to take children in is well short of the number of families wanting ECE.
Waiting time figures vary considerably between service types. For instance, very few home-based services and playcentres have long waiting times for new enrolments. This is because almost all home-based services have educators/caregivers available to take on extra children4. Similarly, playcentres tend to have the spare capacity to take on extra parents and their children at short notice. By contrast, waiting times can be considerably longer for education and care services and for kindergartens.
This can be seen clearly in Figure 4, which shows the percentage of services with waiting times longer than 6 months, by service type and age of child. Figure 4 shows that kindergartens are unique in that they have high waiting time rates for 3 year-olds and low rates for 4 year-olds. This situation results from their tendency to take in 4 year-olds quite readily and to manage any capacity problems by limiting their intake of younger children. Waiting time rates increase with age for education and care services, but there is not as much difference across age for playcentres and home-based services.
Figure 4: Percent of services with waiting times over 6 months, by service type and year of age (2011)
How the proportion of ECE services with long waiting times changes over time can indicate the extent that the number of services is growing fast enough to meet any growth in the number of families wanting their children to attend. A rising proportion indicates that growth in ECE supply is not high enough to meet growth in the demand for ECE; a falling proportion indicates that it is more than meeting growth in demand.
In overall terms, waiting times have risen each year from 2002 to 2008, but have fallen quite rapidly since. The proportion of services with waiting times over 6 months more than doubled between 2002 and 2008, rising from 9.2% to 20.4%. Since then it has fallen to 11.0%5.
The pattern has varied considerably across service types, however, with the overall figures being driven by the largest group – education and care services. The other service types show a very different pattern over time. See Figure 5.
Figure 5: Average percent of services with waiting times over 6 months, by service type
The trends over time for each service type are as follows.
- Education and care services:
The proportion of education and care services with waiting times over 6 months is higher than for any other service type. This proportion rose over the 2002 to 2008 period, indicating that service growth was insufficient to meet the rising demand for ECE at these services. Demand for ECE is likely to have been further boosted by the introduction of 20 Hours ECE in mid-2007, with waiting times jumping the following year. However, there has been strong growth in the number of education and care services since then (see Table 2 and Figure 2), resulting in a fall in the proportion of services with long waiting times.
It is the waiting times for three year-olds that mainly determine kindergartens’ waiting times trends, as the proportion of services with long waiting times for four year-olds has rarely been higher than 1.0%. The proportion of kindergartens with waiting times over 6 months fell from 2004 to 2008. This is likely to reflect a fall in the level of demand for kindergartens over that period, as there has been little change to the number of kindergartens over time. The decline in kindergarten waiting times has since reversed.
- Playcentres and home-based services:
The percentage and number of these services with waiting times over 6 months has remained low over the last decade.
Besides kindergartens, education and care services also show different trends for children of different years of age. Up to 2006, waiting times for 3-4 year-olds were less than for the younger age groups, however since then it has been 0-1 year-olds who have had the shortest waiting times. This change may well reflect the targeting of 20 Hours ECE, with only children aged three years or older being eligible for the scheme and hence demand from this age group now being higher. See Figure 6.
Figure 6: Percent of education and care services with waiting times over 6 months, by age group
- Although they are not licensed ECE services, playgroups (licence-exempt services) are an important component of the provision of ECE services. However, they have been excluded from these indicators due to potential inconsistencies in the way their number has been counted over time. There are also no waiting times data available for playgroups.
- Age-weighting is based on each year of age’s share of the estimated total number of weekly hours of enrolment in ECE.
- A considerably lower proportion of children under one year of age attend ECE compared with four year-olds. If the number of births suddenly increases, it will not be until the babies turn three or four years of age that their number will have its biggest impact on ECE. To account for this impact on the demand for ECE, the population figures have been weighted to reflect the share that children of each single year of age make of the total number of hours attended.
- Waiting times for home-based services refer to the wait for families to obtain a place with one of the caregivers in the network. Depending on individual preferences, some families may wish to wait longer for a caregiver with a particular skill or type of environment (e.g. has a piano in the house).
- These are weighted figures. They are weighted in two ways. First, the contribution of each service type’s waiting times is weighted by their share of enrolments in 2011. Second, the overall waiting times used for each service type itself are the age-weighted average of the waiting times for each year of age, where the weighting is based on the year of age’s share of the total number of 0-4 year-old enrolments in 2011. This weighting is done to prevent age groups and service types with few ECE enrolments having an undue effect on the overall waiting time figures. The exception is kindergartens, where only the 3-4 year-old group is included, as the figures for the younger children are distorted by the fact that very few kindergartens accept children before they are three or four years of age.
- Ministry of Education (2012). Participation in ECE
Downloads / Links
Where to Find Out MoreRelated ECE Indicators
For other indicators on early childhood education please visit: Affordability of ECE Participation in ECE Registered ECE teachers ECE Statistics & Publications
For a large range of statistics on ECE services, provision (including waiting times), and ECE related publications please visit: Statistics on ECE Services ECE Statistics ECE Publications Websites of Interest
For a large range of other information on ECE in New Zealand please visit: ECE Lead website