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Time now to listen to the "real" stakeholders

Time now to listen to the "real" stakeholders

A long time coming, via a poorly constructed and implemented planning process that took three times longer than was intended, the Early Childhood Regulatory Review Consultation document was released this week by the Ministry of Education.

"The Regulatory Review may have had a long gestation period and a difficult birth but at least there is to be genuine consultation with centres, staff and parents, and a better chance of a good outcome for children as a result," said Sue Thorne, CEO of the Early Childhood Council.

For three years the sector was promised consultation on the Early Childhood Funding Review by both the Minister of Education and the Ministry, only to have it cancelled at the 11th hour. The Government simply pushed their new funding system through in the 2004 Budget.

The Regulatory Review suggests far-reaching changes to structure of the early childhood regulatory framework.

"The proposal to move decision-making away from Parliament and into the hands of bureaucrats is a worry. Many centres have already been subject to the whims of local Ministry officials who think they can make and enforce their own laws," said Mrs Thorne.

And it should also be a concern to those in Parliament, like Dr Cullen, who has expressed rising concern about the erosion of Parliament¹s sovereignty and the growth in the power and size of bureaucracy.

Also of concern is the probability of different quality standards for children depending on the type of service they attend eg. percentage of registered teachers.

"This type of variation in standards rings alarm bells," said Mrs Thorne. "If a regulation is good for children in one centre then surely it should be applied across the board for children in all centres. If it can be dispensed of for some children, then I would question whether it is a necessary regulation in the first place."

Some of the discussion particularly around improving quality is extremely important, such as group size and staff:children ratios. Entering into debate on these issues will be difficult without it first being made clear how much it is going to cost and who is expected to pay.

The Early Childhood Council and its 810 member centres are looking forward to providing feedback on the review from a centre manager, staff and parent perspective. Our views will bring the necessary balance to a document written by officials, at the direction of their Minister, and strongly influenced by academics.

If the views of those actually working in the sector and their parent customers are now taken into account, the sector can look forward to a new regulatory framework that is indeed fit for purpose.

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