'Get in early' - thousands of Auckland families compete for prized kindergarten spots


The Government is being urged to step up and help, as thousands of Auckland children wait for months on end to start early childhood education.

Preschool centres are calling on the government to manage the problem.
Source: 1 NEWS

Service provider BestStart says there is a lack of provision across the city as the issue isn't a lack of centres, but a lack of centres in the right places.

Chief executive Fiona Hughes says across their sites, there are children who will be waiting up to 18 months.

"A lot of it is to do with the growth in Auckland," she says.

"It's been phenomenal and the services aren't there in the new suburbs to provide for education and care for children, so our waiting lists can be quite substantial."

Three-year-old Laavya Kumar has been waiting to get into the BestStart centre in Flat Bush for over seven months.

Father Kuldeep says they still have at least three months of waiting ahead.

Mrs Hughes says: "We are hearing of mums who haven't even had the baby yet actually coming into enrol their child so they can get them in in time".

The Auckland Kindergarten Association chief executive Tanya Harvey says they struggle with waiting lists too, with 5500 families in line.

But, while in some areas there are no choices for centres, other neighbourhoods are overwhelmed with option.

Fiona Hughes says this is because instead of providers looking to develop a centre in areas where there is need, many services set up in areas where there is already competition.

As a result, "you're getting centres that are probably reducing their roles down to say 70 per cent, because the concentration of children isn't there".

"I guess it's a little bit like setting two schools up side by side, it really doesn't make a lot of sense," she said.

In Takanini, two centres have been set up within 100 metres of each other and are operating with reduced roles.

A similar situation is expected in Westgate, where there are two neighbouring centres in the building phase.

BestStart says the Government needs to regulate where centres are set up to avoid this happening.

In a statement to 1 NEWS, Katrina Casey from the Ministry of Education dismissed the idea.

"Early Childhood Education (ECE) services are private businesses and we don't direct where these services are established."

"However the Ministry does provide guidance that encourages businesses/organisations to understand the market before they establish an ECE, including carrying out a community needs assessment and talking to local Ministry staff" she said.

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