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Early childhood education in our rural regions

12 July 2013

Early childhood education in our rural regions

Living in rural areas can sometimes be isolating, particularly when access to services city people take for granted are many kilometres away. While education and community experiences are not always readily available, the Hunterville Mobile Kindergarten helps deliver quality early childhood education to young children and their families in remote areas.

Every week qualified head teacher, Jodi Currie, travels 450 kilometres in a van packed with education resources, delivering eight sessions in seven different locations. Operating since 1979, the kindergarten is now teaching second generations of some families. Sessions are delivered in Moawhango, Papanui, Hunterville, Mataroa, Rangiwahia, Taoroa, and Kiwitea schools and community halls. While recognising the unique early education needs of rural families, it also works with other services such as Plunket to ensure an holistic approach to children’s needs are met.

The community approach to child-directed and teacher-facilitated learning sees Jodi and her two part-time teacher aides supported by a committee, communities, and huge family involvement. Some families travel up to an hour to attend sessions, with parents and siblings often staying, engaging, and expanding on the learning at home. Mobile, interactive resources for inspiring young minds are regularly updated, interchanged and supported by equipment at session venues. Children enjoy playing, exploring and discovering together or individually, with their experiences documented in portfolios that are shared with their whanau.

The kindergarten draws rural communities together, providing opportunities for new families in the area to make connections. With several special events held each year, such as the annual Christmas party in Mangaweka, all Hunterville Mobile Kindergarten children and families meet to share in fun and learning.

The rural landscape has changed in recent years. Many schools have closed due to low rolls and high running costs. Establishing critical links for children and their families to their local school, and the heart of their community, is important. Mataroa School have dedicated one of their learning spaces specifically for the kindergarten’s use. The Taoroa School community held a working bee to add essential fencing and dropped flyers, which has seen a successful integration. The school roll is growing, with many of the kindergarten children well prepared for a smooth transition when they turn five.

Mobile kindergartens are not new, however of the nine original there are only two that remain throughout New Zealand. The other is in the South Island, based in Waimate. There is no doubt that they bring variables and cost more to run. Ruahine Kindergarten Association is committed to making quality early childhood education accessible to all. The Government has indicated a need for increased participation in early childhood education, yet under the current sessional regulations mobile kindergartens will no longer comply by 2014. Discussions are underway with the Ministry of Education and the NZ Kindergarten Association to find ways of ensure the continued delivery of quality early childhood education to children in remote areas in future years.

Ruahine Kindergartens Association is a non-profit organisation and member of New Zealand Kindergartens Inc., operating 25 kindergartens in the region. They employ 100% qualified, registered teachers and maintain appropriate adult to child ratios. Research shows these factors help create positive educational and social outcomes.


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