A Budget increase for preschoolers with extra learning needs has been welcomed by two education leaders in Tauranga, but they are both hoping for more support come Thursday.
So is one local mother who says the new funding is "hardly a drop in the bucket".
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that Thursday's Budget would include an extra $21.5 million for the early intervention service over the next four years, about $5.4m a year.
The service provides early intervention in behaviour, learning, and speech and language support for children under 5.
Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin said the increase would halve the current waiting list of preschoolers needing additional learning support.
Peter Monteith, principal of Inspired Kindergartens (formerly known as Tauranga Region Kindergartens), said he was pleased the early childhood sector was "finally getting some traction".
"Hopefully this is just a first step, but it's good that early childhood is being recognised because we've been the Cinderella of the education sector. As the Prime Minister says, the earlier you intervene, the better the options are for children."
Monteith said it would be interesting to see what impact the extra funding would have in kindergartens, as the number of available hours of learning support had been significantly reduced in the past.
"If there is more staff and that reduces waiting times, that's all good, and if there are more resources for teacher aide support, that's all good too. It's all very positive, but we'll be reserving judgement to see how it actually delivers on the ground.
"Given the policies of the three parties in Government, there's an expectation that there will be something reasonably significant for early childhood in the Budget."
Greerton Village School principal Anne Mackintosh said she was "over the moon" about the preschool budget boost announced on Sunday.
"It is such a great start. Putting in additional funding and support in the early years will have huge rollout benefits for all."
Greerton Village School is struggling under increasing financial pressure and says the funding model meant to help with its large number of high-needs students is "broken".
Ministry experts are travelling to Tauranga this month to meet with the primary school over its concerns.
"Being the eternal optimist, I am very hopeful that there will be additional support for all treasures across our country and that a fair and positive outcome will also result from our meeting with the Ministry of Education on May 25," Mackintosh said.
Business consultant and parent Erika Harvey, whose autistic daughter Piper, 7, attends Greerton Village School, said the $21.5m boost was "hardly a drop in the bucket".
"I am hopeful that broader support is announced Thursday so schools (like Greerton Village) aren't punished for being inclusive and instead are rewarded with the funding they need to continue."
She said the funding model for learning support was broken and structural changes were needed.
"Not all disabilities are physical, so the model needs to change to stop so many who are already falling through the cracks. We've got to do better."
Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin said the Budget increase would see an extra 1750 children receive help this coming year and contracted early intervention service providers would support an additional 150 children with the highest needs.
"Within two years this number will increase to an additional 200 children."
However, the numbers are small when compared with more than 13,000 preschool children who received an early intervention service in 2015-16 for reasons such as speech delays and autism.
Ardern said on Sunday that this week's Budget would contain a major funding boost for a significant package of learning support initiatives.
The extra money for early intervention was only "one of the components of the package".
A longer-term "action plan" for learning support is also due to be taken to the Cabinet in October.
- Additional reporting: NZ Herald
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