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Early Childhood: Breastfeeding in ECE Centres

Media release:
Education sector:
Breastfeeding in ECE Centres

13 December 2004 A report on Breastfeeding released today in the NZ Research in Early Childhood Education academic journal highlights the important role that early childhood services play in both nurturing our youngest children and supporting their parents.

"Clearly in the best interests of the child, early childhood services that care for infants should respect a mother's choice to continue to breastfeed her baby and provide what ever practical support they can to assist her to do so" said Sue Thorne, Chief Executive Officer of the Early Childhood Council.

The expectation that staff working with infants have knowledge about breastfeeding and sensitivity towards breastfeeding mothers is not unreasonable, however it raises the question of the suitability of the new ECE qualification requirements for staff working in early childhood centres, particularly in the area of infants.

"One of our biggest frustrations is the Minister of Education's exceedingly narrow view of what makes a suitable person for working with children under five" said Mrs Thorne.

In 2000 Trevor Mallard announced that he required staff with qualifications such as Karitane Nursing, Nanny Diplomas, and Playcentre Certificates to be replaced with graduates with ECE teaching diplomas.

Over the past four years staff with non teaching qualifications have progressively left the sector, with the last of these competent and experienced staff being forced out at the end of this year when the Ministry of Education will cease to recognise them as suitable for working with young children.

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>From 2005 centres who do not employ staff with ECE teaching qualifications will receive the lowest rate of government funding and risk being placed on provisional licences.

"We are as keen as the Minister to see all staff working in centres trained, but where we differ from Trevor Mallard is we want the qualifications that staff have to be relevant to the job they are employed to do" said Mrs Thorne.

In his push to an exclusively teaching workforce in early childhood he risks overlooking the essential skills and attributes needed to nurture the youngest children in our care.

The Early Childhood Council advocates the development of multi-level qualifications for early childhood staff that are fit for purpose and allow a range of specialisation, rather than the one size fits all school model preferred by the Minister.

The Early Childhood Council represents the managers and owners of over 800 community owned and privately owned services throughout New Zealand.


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