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Thank you for the invitation to be part of the opening for the newly expanded YMCA Childcare Centre in New Plymouth. This has been a vision of the team for quite some time and it is fantastic to be here today to see it finalised and ready for action.

Early childhood education plays a valuable and vital role in a child’s development. It is not a cost, it is an investment with future positive outcomes. Investing into ECE is one of the best things we can do for the future of our children and our society.

The government has invested more in ECE than ever before, almost doubling spending from over $800 million in 2007/08 to $1.5 billion in 2013/14. It is one of our priorities

We have high goals and aspirations for our children and ECE is one of our main priorities.

Internationally, New Zealand ranks in the top group of OECD countries in terms of the money we spend on each child in ECE, and the total amount of public money we spend on ECE.

What is the importance of ECE?

The scientific research is irrefutable, on the benefit of ECE.

In the book “Early Years Study 2” by Hon Margaret McCain, Fraser Mustard and Dr Stuart Shanker (Canada), they say:

Children’s early experience has far-reaching and solidying effects on the development of their brains and behaviours.

    The exponential growth in new knowledge from research in the neurosciences and biological sciences is providing evidence of ‘how’ the social environment of early life gets ‘under the skin’ in the early years of life that shape learning, behaviour, and health throughout the life cycle.

    They say early sensory stimulation (vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell) activates specific genes in different parts of the brain to differentiate neuron functions and establish sensory pathways.

    This in turn influences the development of neural pathways to other parts of the brain involved in coping, movement, language, cognition, and biological pathways, including the immune and hormone systems.

    Early environments are mediated through relationships with primary caregivers that drive the development of neural pathways and shape the baby’s brain to become highly attuned to the quality of early experiences.

    Sensory stimulation in early life influences genetic machinery and differentiation of neurons, which in turn affects how neurons function in setting the foundation for lifelong learning, behaviour, and health.

In conclusion what this research indicates is that ECE is not something we can give or take but a critical part of the development of our children and vital in securing a productive and healthy future for our communities.

Children who start behind, too often stay behind

Increasing the number of early childhood providers is very much part of the solution. And so we congratulate the YMCA in establishing their early childhood centre. Generally, the more the better.

In 2008 there were 3,923 providers. In 2013 there were 4,284 – a 9 per cent increase. Over that period of time the government created over 6,000 new child places in priority areas since 2010, through targeted grants for quality providers.

The government’s aim is to have 98% of children starting school having participated in ECE in 2016.

To provide additional funding to support an estimated 5,800 more children to attend ECE by June 2018.

Provide a $53.6 million boost to the subsidy rates for ECE providers to reflect rising costs and to help keep fees affordable for parents.

We are retaining 20 hours ECE. We are currently investing more than $800 million in the 20 hours ECE policy.

This investment and focus on ECE is how we build towards a strong, fair and equal society

Our aim is to create equality of opportunity.

A well-known physician and author J Fraser Mustard noted:
“To establish stable, prosperous, equitable societies, we have to make equality of opportunity for all young children a key policy of our societies.”

People are born into different situations and backgrounds with varying aptitudes and abilities. But no one should face interference or obstacles in cultivating his or hers own talent and skills.

People must all be given the same opportunities—no one may have more opportunities than someone else.

The expansion of the YMCA Childhood Centre means they are ensuring that accessibility is not a barrier for the children in New Plymouth to access a world class education. This is enabling all to have a fair and equal right to the education they deserve.

The Importance of Shaping Our Future

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
- Frederick Douglass

The role this centre will play not only in the lives of the children, but the families and community as a whole is crucial to the future of New Zealand. The education, guidance, skills and care they will receive is laying a platform that will shape the attitude and aptitude of our next city leaders, nurses, entrepreneurs, parents and tradesmen.

I congratulate you on the vision, hard work, collaboration and commitment to expand your premises so more New Plymouth children can get the critical Early Childhood education they need, and wish you all the best for what will be a very busy 2015.

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