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The most vulnerable need qualified teachers

29 July 2004

The most vulnerable need qualified teachers – you would think

The Government’s work to lift quality in the early childhood sector is important and necessary, says Dr John Langley, Principal of the Auckland College of Education. By contrast, the Early Childhood Council’s campaign against the Government’s diploma policy is negative and against the interests of children and their parents.

“As the rubber meets the road on the requirement that at least one person in an early childhood service should be diploma-qualified by 2005, the council appears to be less concerned about quality of early childhood education than it is about bottom-line profitability.

“Its railing about the diploma requirement is utterly disingenuous when it has been clear to the sector since the early 1990s that the diploma was to become the benchmark qualification for early childhood. In 2002 the Government released its early childhood strategy for the staged introduction of qualified staff, allowing ten years for services to get themselves up to speed, and what’s more, offering funding assistance.

“Many services have simply got on with it, and will comply within the timeframe. But mostly what we have heard from the Early Childhood Council is negativity and attempts at stalling, insulting those services that have worked hard to comply for the interests of their children.

“The Minister Trevor Mallard is rightly determined to have a qualified teaching workforce in early childhood. As an ex-teacher and licensee of a centre, he knows why this is so important. The research released last month by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research was yet more evidence of the strides young people make in schooling and in later life if they have experienced high quality early education. It is now beyond dispute that education at this young age is about establishing sound foundations for learning – worlds removed from the ‘warm fuzzies’ of the past, as noted by Cathy Wylie.

“The Early Childhood Council appears to take the current policy as a put-down. It seems to think it is a denigration of staff whose experience should count. While recognition of experience is due, we need to distinguish it from qualifications. Experience of doing something will hardly help if it has been in some way incomplete or insulated from current day notions of the development and socialisation of young children. In the worst case scenario the policy is about addressing practices that put children at risk.

“Far from punishing those currently in centres or devaluing them, the policy is about elevating them, giving a chance to become qualified with all the concomitant benefits of pay and career structure and surely, a sense of personal pride and peer recognition that comes with reaching a profession’s benchmark.

“The Government must not back down. The requirements have already been relaxed, so that the 30% in training can be counted as meeting the requirement in 2012. But there comes a time to say ‘no more exemptions.’ How long should babies and young children have to wait?

ENDS

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