Education Policy | Post Primary | Preschool | Primary | Tertiary | Search


Government Early Childhood Education plan short-sighted

Government ECE action plan short-sighted

23rd August 2012

The Government’s Better Public Service Action Plan target to have 98% of all of NZ’s children in early childhood education before starting school is short-sighted and could well backfire resulting in worse health, behaviour, and learning outcomes for children, Dr Sarah Farquhar of the ChildForum early childhood national network says.

“It gives a strong sense that parents and whanau, especially if they are on low-incomes or Maori or Pacific will be ‘hunted out’ by government agencies and their children ‘competed for’ amongst providers of early childhood education anxious for the funding these children will bring to them,” Dr Farquhar says.

A report released by Every Child Counts, an NZ political lobby group for children, at Parliament on the same day as the government’s action plan for supporting vulnerable children shows that improving child outcomes is much more complex than just taking children off their parents and increasing children’s participation in early childcare and education.

The Every Child Counts report reviews what the Netherlands does for its children and what NZ can learn from the Dutch.

The Netherlands was selected by the lobby group for study because it stands out as a country that achieves a very high OECD ranking in outcomes for children while spending a lot less than countries with similar high scores.

NZ is well down in the OECD rankings for many child well-being outcomes, with severe disadvantage concentrated among Pacific and Maori families, solo parents and low-income families. Abuse and neglect figures are high and NZ has relatively low wages and low labour productivity.

The Netherlands also spends nearly twice more per child than New Zealand, according to OECD calculations.

The Netherlands is described as having a culture of respect for children and of caring responsibilities of parents. There is a strong expectation that parents will provide much of the care and education of children during their first four years. Parent education and support is widely available and very large in scope.

Recommendations made in the Every Child Counts report include expanding the reach of effective parent support and education programmes such as Early Start, expanding Plunket and well-child health services to include access to practical help with childcare and household tasks, and increasing parental leave.

Dr Sarah Farquhar, an expert in quality early childhood education, says that international research shows that parents and families have the greatest impact on children’s early learning.

“At the end of the day what really makes a difference is not whether a child participates in early childhood education, but whether that participation has a positive impact on what children experience at home,” Dr Farquhar says.

Dr Farquhar also says that minimum standards in early childhood education need to be raised before Government can begin to claim that participation in ECE will raise outcomes for disadvantaged children. Children would benefit if basic standards such as in staffing (ratios and requiring qualified teachers) were raised and maximum class sizes were introduced.

While research on well-staffed, well-funded, high quality early intervention programmes for disadvantaged children overseas shows there can be strong cognitive benefits there is also evidence that for some children more problem behaviours result and the spread of preventable illnesses becomes more difficult to control in large group settings.

ChildForum recommends that Government’s policy for participation in early childhood education and its target for participation be reviewed to increase parental choice/agency and to put children at the centre of policy.

ChildForum supports Every Child Counts recommendation that on-going dialogue be established between Dutch and NZ officials so good ideas can be explored and both parties can learn from their experiences in implementing and maintaining policies.

More details are available online at ChildForum’s website.

The ChildForum Early Childhood Network is a national network of early childhood service providers, educators, tertiary educators and researchers. Our aim is to provide fresh thinking, information and research on early childcare and education along with supporting families and the early childhood sector. Our website is


© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines


Howard Davis: Emerald Fennell's Promising Young Woman'

The Guardian needed not one, but three reviews to do justice to Fennell's unsettling approach, which indicates exactly how ambiguous and controversial its message really is. More>>

Howard Davis: Jill Trevelyan's Rita Angus

Although Angus has become one of Aotearoa’s best-loved painters, the story of her life remained little known and poorly understood before Jill Trevelyan's acclaimed and revelatory biography, which won the Non Fiction Award at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards in 2009, and has now been republished by Te Papa press. More>>

Howard Davis: The Back of the Painting

Painting conservators are the forensic pathologists of the art world. While they cannot bring their subjects back to life, they do provide fascinating insights into the precise circumstances of a painting's creation, its material authenticity, and constructive methodology. More>>

Howard Davis: Black Panthers on the Prowl

A passionate and gripping political drama from Shaka King, this is an informative and instructive tale of human frailty that centers around the charismatic Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, who was murdered at the age of twenty-one during a police raid. More>>

Howard Davis: Controlling the High Ground

Stephen Johnson's raw and angry film not only poses important questions with scrupulous authenticity, but also provides a timely reminder of the genocidal consequences of casual bigotry and xenophobia. More>>

Howard Davis: Dryzabone - Robert Conolly's The Dry

After the terrible devastation caused by last year’s bushfires, which prompted hundreds of Australians to shelter in the ocean to escape incineration and destroyed uncountable amounts of wildlife, The Dry has been released during a totally different kind of dry spell. More>>

Howard Davis: Hit the Road, Jack - Chloé Zhao's Nomadland

Nomadland is perhaps the ultimately 'road' movie as it follows a group of dispossessed and disenfranchised vagabonds who find a form of communal refuge in camp sites and trailer parks after the economic contraction of 2008. More>>



  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland