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Working Together For Children’s Success

Howard Fancy
Secretary for Education
Community News Article
958 words

Early childhood focus

Working Together For Children’s Success

The first years of a child’s life are packed with exciting discoveries.

Learning not only occurs rapidly but in ways that lay the foundations for learning over the rest of their lives.

In these early years, language skills are built but so are a much wider range of thinking, problem solving, creative and social skills.

Families and parents have a huge influence in helping children grow and develop into confident youngsters ready to take on life’s challenges and be the best they can be.

Participation in quality early childhood education complements and extends the learning that happens at home and from family.

These are key reasons why so much investment is being made to better support the role parents and whanau play and also to increase access to quality early childhood education across the country.

Team-Up is one programme that is being developed to help parents to help their children learn. It’s fronted by Tana Umanga as its ambassador.

You may have seen some of the TV advertisements showing simple and fun ways in which a child’s learning and curiosity can be promoted and supported at home.

Feedback from parents shows an appreciation of the many questions and concerns that different people have and the areas that parents would like to be better informed about.

We are building a large information base about different aspects of the education system, about children’s development and about the many ways parents can help their children learn. This information will become available to parents in a range of ways allowing them access to reliable and accurate information.

There is already help for those parents seeking information about the range of early childhood education services available through a Team-Up website. An 0800 number for parents will be up and running in February 2006.

Tana will continue to front and this public education programme as its ambassador.

Alongside the investments being made to better support parents are large investments in early childhood education.

Experience and research makes clear that the benefits of quality early childhood education can still be evident years later as a child moves through the school system and later on to tertiary education, a job or both.

New Zealand has a strong advantage in having very good early childhood education services. In many areas we are seen as a world leader. This applies across a diverse range of services ranging from kindergarten to playcentre, te kohanga reo, Montessori or home-based services.

And major efforts are in train to make early childhood education even better.

The 10-year plan for developing quality early childhood education – Pathways to the Future: Ngä Huarahi Arataki – goes into its fourth year in 2006.

The three goals of the plan are to:
- increase participation;
- improve quality;
- build stronger working relationships between families, communities, early childhood education services and government agencies.

A great deal has already been achieved.

Enrolments have increased by nearly 10,000 in the past two years.

Further encouragement will be available in mid-2007, when up to 20 hours free early childhood education will be available for three and four-year-olds.

To improve quality many early childhood education teachers are gaining higher level professional qualifications. To support the investment in higher qualifications, from April 2005 increased funding to services employing registered and more highly qualified ECE teachers started.

Centres of Innovation have been established to develop and share leading edge practice. These different early childhood education services work together to find out what teaching and learning practices work best in their services and communities.

Their learning is then shared with other centres throughout New Zealand. Ten Centres of Innovation are up and running, and six more start in early 2006.

New Zealand’s internationally recognised early childhood curriculum, Te Whariki, supports quality teaching and learning in many different early childhood education services.

Used well, ICT can be a big help to a child’s learning. Using ICT children can observe, explain and record their world in different ways.

The learning young children are capable of is amazing. Our rapidly developing world means children are using technology in ways and with a confidence that many of us would not have dreamed of.

I have visited services where children are using computers and digital cameras with gusto. They use these as part of their learning about mathematical concepts, science and discovery, and all kinds of day-to-day experiences.

In doing this kids develop a love of learning and the confidence to keep asking questions, and developing views that they can confidently debate and discuss.

In other words they are developing lifelong learning skills and habits from a very early age. This is why the benefits of quality early childhood education are so far reaching and this is why it such a high priority for me.

The key to all children succeeding starts the day they are born. Preparation for their future requires them to have strong skills in language and maths. But it also needs them to develop adaptability for new and different ways of learning.

By working together in the home, the community, and in early childhood services we can give our young children the best possible learning opportunities to last them their whole lives.

***********

Parents have many early childhood education services to choose from –kindergarten, playgroup, playcentre, te kohanga reo, Pasifika language nest, Montessori and home-based services.

If you need more information about these services and what they offer contact your local Ministry of Education office and ask for advice, including a free Choices booklet.

The 10-year plan for early childhood education Pathways to the Future: Ngä Huarahi Arataki can be found at: www.minedu.govt.nz/goto/ecestrategicplan

More about Team-Up is at: www.teamup.co.nz


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