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Government regulation restricts learning

Government regulation creates preschool waiting lists and restricts children's learning

A jungle of regulation is slowing the building of preschools, creating unnecessary waiting lists, and restricting children's learning once they get through the door, says an early childhood education sector leader.

Glennie Oborn, founder and Managing Director of Kindercare Learning Centres, opened her first Kindercare centre in Auckland in 1972. According to Ms Oborn, the opening of an early childhood centre 'has never been more pointlessly complex, time-consuming or expensive'.

Speaking at the official launch of the Wellington presence of Kindercare Learning Centres in Kilbirnie today (9.30am, 27 August, 127 Rongotai Road), Ms Oborn said: 'What used to take months now takes years. What used to be simple now requires a small army of Government officials, inspectors, administrators and consultants.'

Kindercare had been forced to wait three years and three months for the granting of the resource consent application for its Kilbirnie Centre, she said.

'And even then we were not given consent for 20 of the child places for which we applied - despite the fact this is a community with a shortage of early childhood places.'

Heavy regulation was preventing the building of many centres 'because for some the reward is no longer worth the regulatory grief', Ms Oborn said. And the result was 'entirely preventable waiting lists of children unable to access education and care, and thousands of low-income children receiving no preschool education at all'.

Playgrounds were now so tightly regulated for safety that many centres could no longer afford the amount of space required by regulation to provide a swing. And centres were increasingly reluctant to provide climbing equipment because safety measures had been increased 'beyond reason'.

The result, said Ms Oborn, was that children today 'lack the variety of equipment that allowed children 10 years ago to explore, investigate, test themselves and learn'.

Ms Oborn said there had to be a two-metre 'fall zone' at the end of a flat, slow slide where children fall no further than two feet. 'And because fall zones cannot overlap you end up with a playground full of fall zones instead of equipment.'

If there was not enough space for fall zones, swings had to be anchored so they couldn't swing, she said, 'which means they are not really swings anymore'.

While the regulatory maze was difficult for a large organisation like Kindercare it was 'an absolute nightmare for the managers and owners of single centres, many of whom got into early childhood education because they wanted to care for children, and who are now selling out to large chains because they don't want to be paper shufflers'.

Ms Oborn said Kindercare was not against safety standards.

'The children's safety is our top priority. What we want, however, is to focus on caring for and educating children. We don't want to be focussed on ticking hundreds of regulatory boxes.'

Ms Oborn said Kindercare teachers, like other early childhood educators, wanted Government to recognise them as professsionals able to competently deliver quality outcomes for children, 'without everything being prescribed in regulation down to the last minute detail, as if they were unable to do anything without step-by-step instruction'.

Kindercare Learning Centres is New Zealand-owned and operated. It has two new centres in Wellington (in Lower Hutt and Kilbirnie), 21 in Auckland, and eight in Christchurch.


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