All of us who have known Clare and watched her career over the last 40 years have witnessed her tenacity and incredible leadership in the early childhood space. As a teacher, a unionist and holding a variety of positions within the education sector space….
Clare has been the chief executive of New Zealand Kindergartens Te Putahi Kura Puhou o Aotearoa since 2008 and retired from this position in 2018. Her previous roles include policy adviser for the New Zealand Public Service Association and a senior policy adviser to the Minister of Education. Ms Wells has been on several education boards and groups since 1991, most recently the Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards Panel of Experts, the Minister of Education’s Cross-Sector Forum and the Minister’s Continuity of Early Learning Group, the Childrens’ Action Plan Directorate Workforce Advisory Group, the New Zealand Teachers Council Early Childhood Education Advisory Group (of which she is Chair), the Early Childhood Education Quality Working Group, and is a member of the Ministry of Education’s Early Childhood Advisory Committee.
It was not so long ago that she was among many other issues advocating for a return to 100% qualified staff …
“Teacher shortages aren’t limited to schools” said NZ Kindergartens Chief Executive Clare Wells. “There is also an urgent need to address the recruitment and retention of qualified teachers in early childhood education (ECE).”
“We are seeing the result of government changes over the past decade and shifting targets and timeframes to achieve a fully qualified ECE teaching workforce” said Clare Wells. Sixteen years ago, the Labour government set in place targets for 100% qualified teachers in teacher-led, centre-based services. In 2010, the National government slashed the target to 80% along with the funding. “Years of uncertainty for people looking to take up a teaching career, and for employers and training providers, is taking its toll. We have to turn that around.”
“Kindergartens and many education and care services have managed to hang on to 100% qualified teachers but that’s getting harder to do” said Clare Wells. “Attracting people into the teaching profession is one thing, supporting them to stay there is another – and we have to do both” Clare Wells said.
What will make a difference:
· determining that all staff in teaching roles are qualified teachers;
· reinstating and improving funding levels to maintain 100% qualified teachers in services where this is currently the case;
· designing policy and implementing funding to help those working in ECE services to become qualified teachers;
· providing appropriate funding to ensure newly graduated teachers have access to the support they need as beginning teachers;
· increasing pay and improving employment conditions for all qualified ECE teachers and ensuring they are covered by a national collective agreement;
· extending the support offered to teachers in the schools sector to all teachers, to attract and retain staff especially in isolated and rural communities.
“Clearly the initiatives to attract more school teachers is a welcome ‘quick fix’ but there is no such offer to ECE” Clare Wells said. “We’re lagging behind again. We need the government to put a stake in the ground now and implement a coherent workforce policy, ensure top quality teacher education programmes are available, and ensure ECE services have the resources and support they need to attract and retain qualified teachers.
It is these sorts of actions and obvious advocacy for the movement as a whole that have lead to Clare’s recognition this weekend. Well done Clare you have worked tirelessly for not only Early Childhood Education but for the public service as well! A well deserved award. Congratulations. Arohanui, Wendy