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Public consultation backs Playcentre

17 October 2011

Public consultation backs Playcentre

Public consultation on the government's Early Childhood Education (ECE) Taskforce report overwhelmingly supports maintaining funding for New Zealand education icon, Playcentre.

Reports summarising the consultation feedback were released late on Friday [14 October], along with a broad outline of National party policy on ECE going into next month’s general election. [The reports (key findings and detailed findings) can be viewed here.

The ECE Taskforce was set up in October 2010 to review the effectiveness of ECE spending and propose innovative ideas about learning. Its report, “An Agenda for Amazing Children” was released in June 2011, followed by an eight week consultation period ending on 8 August. [More about the taskforce and its report at: www.taskforce.ece.govt.]

The ECE Taskforce report showed a strong bias towards centre-based daycare run by paid teachers as an indicator of good quality ECE, in sharp contrast to research showing that the parent-run Playcentre model produces educational outcomes for children at least as good as services staffed by teachers.

Hidden on the ECE Taskforce website was a funding exemplar which recommended cutting Playcentre funding by 63%. This threat galvanised Playcentre parents and educators to participate in the consultation process, giving full voice to their experience of the high quality education Playcentres provide. More than 4,000 survey responses and submissions were received in total. Of the survey responses from parents, 59% were from parents with children enrolled at Playcentre-.

In her media release last Friday, Education Minister Anne Tolley made a policy pledge to “end the variability of quality in ECE.” Taskforce consultation respondents called for a clearer definition of what constitutes quality in the ECE sector, including what high quality provision looks like across service types.

While Mrs Tolley has confirmed that her government will not cut Playcentre funding, we would like to see her clearly state that ECE provided by groups of trained parents under the Playcentre Education Diploma meets the National Party definition of high quality ECE, and will be supported to flourish and grow if National gets a second term leading the government.

Mrs Tolley also committed to giving better information to parents about their children's involvement in ECE. As Playcentres have the parents as educators and management of their centres, involved in decision making at all levels, there is no better model for fully informing parents about their child's learning and development. Other service types may be able to learn from the consultative approach taken by Playcentres.

A third recommendation of Mrs Tolley's release is that world-leading ECE curriculum Te Whāriki be subject to a national evaluation. The Taskforce consultation respondents showed strong support for Te Whāriki. For those who agreed that there was some benefit in evaluating the curriculum, implementation was the most common element of concern.

Playcentre agrees that our national ECE curriculum is a strong document which is highly supportive of how children's learning can be encouraged by adults. The cuts made in recent years to professional development funding for educators on curriculum and assessment implementation should be reviewed to see whether they have contributed to a reduced culture of professional dialogue about implementation issues.

Any review of Te Whāriki also needs to ensure that the curriculum continues to be a document that encourages both Māori and Pākehā world views within education.

About Playcentre

• Playcentres are early childhood and adult education services which have operated in Aotearoa New Zealand for over 70 years.

• Playcentres are run as parent cooperatives by groups of trained volunteer parents, and provide half-day learning environments for children aged birth to school entry, and a supportive network for their parents.

• There are 489 Playcentres nationwide, from the Far North to Southland (stretching from Houhora, north of Kaitaia, to Toitois, south of Invercargill).

• Around 11,000 families and 16,000 children are currently enrolled in Playcentre.

• Playcentre parents receive free enrolment in the NZQA-recognised Playcentre Diploma in Early Childhood and Adult Education.


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