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Playcentre: Nurture not profit

Playcentre: Nurture not profit

Playcentre provides New Zealand parents with an early childhood option that addresses many of the concerns that have been raised in the media in recent weeks. Playcentre is a uniquely Kiwi, not for profit organisation, that provides parents with support and guidance in being the first teachers of their children. Playcentre's unique ECE model, where ECE-trained parents operate the centres and run the sessions, also qualifies for the ECE attendance criteria under the Government's social obligation policy for beneficiaries.

In 2014 Playcentre provided quality education to nearly 12,000 children. Uniquely, and just as importantly, the nationwide, community organisation also provided free NZQA education to over 8,000 of those children’s parents. Playcentre gives children and their parents, opportunities to play and learn together in a safe and nurturing environment

In 2011 former Children's Commissioner John Angus released a report concluding that, in an ideal world, care at home by parents or whanau is in the best interests of under one-year-olds. “Through Their Lens”, the report on non-parental care of under two year olds, recommends strengthening public policy settings to encourage parental care of infants, and tightening up standards in formal out-of-home care for infants and toddlers. The New Zealand Playcentre Federation fully supports these recommendations.

“It is important that society and government help parents to nurture their children in the best way possible, and providing financial and social supports for this to happen is vital”, says New Zealand Playcentre Federation Co-President, Viv Butcher. “At Playcentre we recognise that it's a demanding job raising your child in isolation. Our centres provide a supportive community for parents and whanau and a quality adult education programme to develop parenting skills and help parents to take an active role in their child’s education.”

Playcentre’s adult-to-child ratio is a minimum of 1:5 nationwide (and in some Playcentres it is as low as 1:3), with centres mostly licenced for 30 children or fewer. Elsewhere in the ECE sector, ratios of 1:10 and 1:15 are commonplace, and some are licenced to have as many as 150 children on site.

In 2011 the government report “An Agenda for Amazing Children”, by the ECE Taskforce, emphasised the importance of parents getting support for parenting in their communities. The Taskforce recognised the long-term investment of high-quality early childhood education, and recommended a range of ways to increase the quality of services and access for all children and their parents to this community support. The report noted: “Early childhood education programmes that have strong parental connections have been shown to be more effective than those that do not. Enabling effective parent support is therefore one of Government's strongest options for supporting child development, effective family functioning and good outcomes.”

Kate Dowling, an Upper Hutt Playcentre mum, has this to say about Playcentre: “We chose Playcentre for many reasons, but particularly because of its excellent adult to child ratios. I know my daughter is never ‘lost in the crowd’ at Playcentre: there are many caring adults at each session for her to learn from and interact with. The other parents have a vested interest in my child’s wellbeing – as I do in theirs – as we are all part of the same community; our children are friends, and many will go on to be schoolmates together.“

Playcentres are all about being involved in your local community. Playcentre was formed some 74 years ago and today operates 483 early childhood education centres for children aged from birth to school entry. In each Playcentre, groups of parents collectively supervise and teach the children attending half-day sessions. Parents are offered free NZQA-recognised training in child development, non-violent child management, communication, and administration skills for a community group. Parents often move on from Playcentre to work in the early childhood education sector, and/or become actively involved in many other areas of their communities, such as school boards of trustees; Scouts and Girls Guides; toy libraries; and community sport groups, to name but a few.

For further information, or to find your local Playcentre, visit

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