Regulation and funding key to quality early education
Regulation and funding key to quality early childhood education
For immediate release
7 October 2015
New Zealand’s early childhood education services are highly regarded internationally and generally of good quality.
Ninety eight per cent of ECE services in New Zealand met or exceeded Ministry of Education licensing requirements. All ECE services are externally reviewed and Education Review Office reports tell an overall story of children who are safe, happy and engaged in learning. Most children experience consistent and responsive caregiving. Compared to other OECD countries New Zealand is especially strong in its commitment to qualified teachers and its overall teacher child ratios.
Responding to a ChildForum survey released today Nancy Bell, Chief Executive of Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand (ECNZ) cautioned against its conclusions. ‘Six hundred teachers were surveyed, just 2.4% of the 25,000 ECE teachers out there. It’s not clear how the sample was selected nor whether those surveyed were representative of the wider sector.’
Nonetheless, the report does highlight issues that have been of concern to our members for many years, namely teacher-child ratios for under-2s and teachers’ employment conditions.
Teacher-child ratios are especially important for children under 2 year’s old who need consistent and responsive caregiving that is finely tuned to their individual needs. The provision of non-contact time for teachers is essential if they are to plan for and evaluate children’s learning. Most early childhood employers try to provide the best ratios and employment conditions they can but we know that this is a variable picture.
Ms Bell said that under-2 ratios should be improved for all services. ‘We would like to see regulations move from 1:5 to a 1:3 ratio alongside the necessary funding increase to ensure that all families benefit, not just those whose parents can afford this. In addition we would like to see stronger regulations regarding the qualifications of teachers working with infants.’
Overseas contexts show that strong regulations and funding are especially important when profit is a key driver for ECE providers.
New Zealand is doing well at raising children’s participation in ECE but it’s only valuable if it’s high quality.