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Ideologically Bigoted Policies Driving a Wedge

17 July 2005

Ideologically Bigoted Policies Driving a Wedge

Address to the New Zealand Childcare Association Conference 15 July 2005 Toni Christie, Principal of Childspace Early Learning Centres

Tena Koutou Katoa

He tino hari kua tututaki tatou.

Me mahi tahi tatou mo te oranga o te tamariki.

My name is Toni Christie and I am the Principal of Childspace early learning centres and the Director of Childspace Early Childhood Institute.

Thank you for the invitation today to share my vision for the future of early childhood in New Zealand.

The difficult thing about describing my vision for early childhood is keeping the description to five minutes!

Any of you who know me will know I like discussion and debate and can become quite passionate when discussing my favourite topic – early childhood.

I am also reminded of a quote I read recently which I thought particularly relevant as this is a political forum in an election year. “Keep your words soft and tender in case you have to eat them later”.

First of all I wish to give us all, and those who have come before us a bouquet… recently I was in Montreal for the world forum on early care and education and I am proud to say that New Zealand is a little country that is leading the world when it comes to early childhood education and care.

New Zealand was among the best funded countries out of the eighty nations represented at the forum. Our levels of government funding are well ahead of our traditional economical models such as Australia, the United States and the UK.

Not only do we receive far greater government funding for early childhood in New Zealand, but we are also well advanced in our policy work, regulations, diversity, innovation, curriculum, research, and environments.

Another thing I am always proud of when I attend world forums is our emphasis on preserving the language and culture of our indigenous people.

Globally, I have not seen a better model than New Zealand and we have much to share with the rest of the world in this regard.

So, to all of us, and all who have come before us, WELL DONE! We are world leaders…

Now to our future…

I envisage a highly motivated, highly intelligent, and highly paid profession which is responsive to the needs of its clients – children and families.

It is so often said that diversity is our strength in early childhood.

Do we really believe this?

Do politicians believe this?

Because if they do I wonder why they create policy which rewards one sector type over another?

Diversity should be a strength. We are fortunate in Early Childhood that we have not yet been forced into the “one size fits all” approach to education evident in our compulsory sector.

Every family is unique just as every child is unique. Let THEM choose which service best suits the unique needs of their child and family.

If twenty hours free cannot be a reality for all children then by all means direct this funding to the CHILDREN who need it.

But you can’t tell me there is anything equitable about a wealthy family receiving this benefit just because they happen to attend a community based centre or a poor family missing out because there is no community based provision in their area.

No, this policy was based purely and simply on ideology and has been widely criticised by parts of our sector, treasury, ministry of social development and most recently in the OECD report.

Early childhood should be about meeting the needs of children and families NOT vested interest groups.

Ideologically bigoted policies that drive a wedge between different groups within our sector and remove a family’s right to choice should be rejected by the whole sector so that we might truly have strength in our diversity.

Any political party which forms a coalition government should recognise that we all have a role to play; Private and community, home-based and centre-based, parent – led and teacher – led, all day and part day.

Once the parties realise that one service type is not superior to another and that each service plays a vital role in the health and well being of our youngest children, THEN they can ensure funding seeks to support diversity, improve quality, increase participation and promote choices for families.

Kia kaha and good luck to all the politicians here. I acknowledge the incredible amount of effort and enthusiasm you all bring to your roles.

To the early childhood people in the room. I acknowledge your effort and enthusiasm also. Be very proud, we are world leaders and have much to share – with each other as well as our global colleagues. United we stand, divided we fail our tamariki, No reira, Kia ora


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