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Data on Early Childhood Education complaints released

Ministry releases data on Early Childhood Education complaints following requests from ChildForum

6 June 2014

The Ministry of Education has released this week a summary of data on the number and type of complaints made against early childhood education services in 2013.

ChildForum chief executive Dr Sarah Farquhar says this gives an important message to parents, early childhood services and the public that the Ministry of Education publicly acknowledges its responsibility and is willing to handle complaints.

The move comes after sustained pressure from Early Childhood Network ChildForum, which has been campaigning for information about complaints to be more readily available. Last year, ChildForum was given details of complaints received in 2012, but a similar request in February this year for data from 2013 was denied as the Ministry promised the information would be released publicly in May.

This information has now been published on the Ministry of Education’s website. However, details of the complaints including the organisations against which they were made have not been revealed.

The Ministry says it received 246 complaints in 2013. It investigated 174 of the complaints and 79 were upheld. The most common course of action was a review of the service’s policies and procedures.

Most of the complaints were regarding fees or how the service was managed. However, there were 26 allegations of physical or verbal abuse against a child of which three were upheld and 25 allegations of poor accident management, including children suffering accidents, or incidents not being properly reported, of which three were upheld. There were seven reports of children leaving a centre unattended due to insecure premises or lack of supervision, of which five were upheld.

Dr Sarah Farquhar says the release is a step in the right direction and greater transparency was vital.

“While it is good that the Ministry has made a commitment to publish this data annually, the general nature of the report does not really make the complaints process more transparent,” she says.

“Parents have the right to know whether a service they are considering for their child has been the subject of a complaint and what was done about it.

“How can parents truly know that an early childhood service is safe for their child if they do not know if there have been any major problems, and if so what consequences the service has faced and what improvements have been made?”

Dr Farquhar says the current situation also often led to rumours about which services were good or bad.

“The Ministry says the withholding of information is to protect the interests of services, but by not naming services against which complaints have been made the Ministry possibly risks tarnishing the reputation of others which have done nothing wrong,” she says.

“If a service has dealt with a complaint adequately it should have nothing to fear from being named and if the problem hasn’t been investigated or resolved adequately then the public has a right to know.”

Dr Farquhar says she will continue campaigning to increase the information available for parents.

This week, My ECE, a website designed to help parents understand the early childhood education sector better, has launched a survey asking people what they think of the Ministry’s approach to releasing complaints information and whether they feel more needs to be done.

The survey is open to parents, caregivers, and anyone working in the ECE sector and can be found at www.myece.org.nz

Further information
The report based on information about complaints laid in 2012 can be found here: www.myece.org.nz/inside-news/169-nz-ece-complaints

The Ministry of Education’s information release of the 2013 ECE complaints summary is available on its website.

About ChildForum: ChildForum is the national ECE network in New Zealand providing fresh thinking, information, and research on childcare and early childhood education. Early childhood services across the sector, employers/managers, educators and parents are supported by ChildForum. ChildForum’s members also include teacher educators, researchers, health professionals, and child advocates. For more information go to www.childforum.com

About My ECE: This is a website designed to give parents and the public access to good information about early childhood education in general and individual early childhood education services within New Zealand. The website is free to access and includes listings of ECE services with reviews and ratings. See www.myece.org.nz

ENDS

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