Home-based early childhood education has been the fastest growing part of the early learning sector, receiving over $150 million each year in public funding.
18,267 children received education and care from a home-based educator in 2018, a 65 per cent increase since 2007.
“The Coalition Government is committed to making New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child," Hipkins said.
"High quality early learning is a right of every child and their parents and whānau, to give them the best possible start in life.
“We’ve heard from educators and parents about the unique place that home-based learning holds, in particular the family-feel it provides, with small groups and close relationships.
"But we have also heard concerns about inconsistent quality across the sector, due in part to inadequate government oversight."
The Minister noted that currently, home-based educators do not need to hold a relevant qualification.
“...in fact the proportion of services with qualified educators has declined over the last decade," he explained.
"The Government has decided to move towards a level 4 Early Childhood Education certificate becoming the minimum qualification for home-based educators."
Hipkins said he would work with the sector to determine when the qualification requirement would become mandatory.
In the meantime, changes to the funding rates and criteria will increasingly encourage home-based services to employ a qualified workforce.
“Te Ara Tuarua, the Level 5 kōhanga reo qualification, will also be recognised as an equivalent qualification for funding purposes," he said.
"Recognising Te Ara Tuarua in home-based ECE is an important step towards providing more opportunities to use te reo Māori across the wider early learning sector."
NZEI Te Riu Roa welcomed the government's plans, with President Lynda Stuart describing it as "long overdue".
"We would like to see targets set as soon as practical for mandatory qualifications and would also argue for greater integration of home-base services with quality centre-based services, to ensure in-home educators are well supported," she said.
She added that the early childhood sector had been "severely underfunded for the past decade", a problem which would need to be addressed to achieve quality early childhood education for all.
"The budget pressure on ECE services is extreme and reflected in the poor pay rates of qualified teachers," she continued.
"If we are to value quality early education for our children, we have to put greater value on the people providing it.
"This plan around home-based care is a good first step."
The move to a fully-qualified workforce is the major change coming out of a review of the home-based early childhood education.
Other decisions on the review include:
- Strengthened oversight through a beefed-up ‘visiting teacher’ role;
- Giving the Education Review Office the power to enter homes where home-based early childhood education is taking place; and
- More explicit requirements on service providers to provide health and safety training and professional development for educators.
The Minister said he anticipated that the new requirements and greater scrutiny would result in some providers, such as in cases where educators are au pairs or family members, or services specialising in short-term care arrangements, exiting the market or moving to informal arrangements that no longer receive public money.
“While I believe au pairs provide valuable support to parents, exempting this group would have undermined the intent of the policy.
"As there is no definition of au pair in the current regulatory framework, an exemption could have led to unintended rapid growth in the unqualified au pair market.
"This could lead to significant variability in quality across home-based early childhood education.
“Education and care in the home is a valued option for many parents and whānau.
"Today’s changes will ensure that parents can be confident in the quality of education provided for their children," Hipkins said.