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Early Childhood Teachers Urge Caution

Early Childhood Teachers Urge Caution On Lowering Standards For Gym Creches

A move to lower standards for gym creches is being applauded as "dealing to bureaucracy" and a victory for common sense, but those who work with babies and young children in early childhood education services say children could be at risk.

Education Minister Chris Carter has said new regulations and criteria will be introduced this year.

NZEI, the union representing early childhood teachers, says it sounds superficially attractive to lower standards to allow gym creches to set up, so that parents can exercise and keep fit.

But NZEI national secretary Lynne Bruce says care of babies and young children is important work and safeguards are needed to ensure their wellbeing.

"Looking after groups of babies and young children is not a job for just anyone. It takes knowledge, skill and professional judgement to deal with two crying babies while two toddlers may be having an altercation at the same time."

While the general regulations have been under review for two years, involving extensive consultation with the sector, the idea of a two tier regulatory system has not been discussed at all.

"In talking to others, there is widespread opposition to this idea from throughout the sector," says Lynne Bruce.

NZEI calls on the Minister of Education to meet representatives of the sector and hear their concerns about the possible impact on babies, infants and young children of these proposals.

The current regulations provide a minimum safeguard. They provide for safe ratios, for first aid training, police vetting and health and safety protection, for example, under- sanitation - nappy changing and food preparation need to be separated. Any move to reduce minimum standards in certain circumstances could place children at risk.

While any new lesser regulations may be designed for a half hour workout, some babies infants or children may be left for long periods. Gyms vary widely and some offer also offer pool, spa, massage and café facilities. Babies as young as two months may be left for up to 10 hours a week in these services - more time than a child might attend playcentre or kindergarten.

Parents working out at the gym may not be expecting an in-depth educational programme for their child, but in fact any new regulations may apply not just to gyms, and could lead to lower early childhood education standards elsewhere.


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