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Concerns Remain for Children in Early Childhood Education

Concerns Remain for Children in Early Childhood Education

20 October 2015
Press Release: ChildForum

Wellington – There is growing concern about quality in the early childhood education and the government’s lack of adequate response to a recent survey on teachers’ views is quite alarming, ChildForum says.

Chief Executive of ChildForum Warwick Marshall said the Education Ministry’s reaction to talk down concerns was not surprising given it has a mandate from the Government to concentrate on getting more children into care for longer hours.

Survey results on teacher views about quality in centres were released by the ChildForum ECE Service National Network earlier this month and reported in major papers, radio stations, TV3 and Prime news programmes.

A quarter of teachers surveyed said they would not want their children to be enrolled or go to another comparable early childhood centre and yet the message from the ministry was -- not to worry!

“Concern for children is continuing to build,” Mr Marshall said.

An analysis of comments posted on the Stuff website and on three NZ ECE Facebook groups for teachers with membership sizes of more than 6410, 3780, and 1900 show overwhelming support for the survey findings.

Early childhood professionals, academics, centre owners/ operators, members of the public and parents have confirmed and verified the findings with many saying they were “unsurprised”.

ChildForum has also received calls and emails from individuals and groups thanking it for reporting teacher views on quality.

However, the ministry’s response that the quality of early childhood education was being adequately monitored inferred that if there was a problem it lay with individuals not reporting concerns rather than with the system or current policy.

Mr Marshall said that this showed a serious disconnect between the official view and the survey findings backed up by overwhelming support.

“Parents rely on the ministry’s monitoring and assurances of quality care and education and on Education Office reports but while teachers have said that quality in some centres for children is good it is not the case in all,” Mr Marshall said.

“It is easier for parents not to complain or to be seen to cause trouble especially when they are reliant on a service for childcare. Teachers can be reluctant to inform parents if they hold concerns for a child for various reasons including not wanting to add to a busy parent’s stress.”

The ministry also said it is “clear and transparent about the complaints we receive and publish these on our website on an annual basis”.

This was not true at the time as it had only published a summary of complaints laid during 2013. But a week later it quietly posted onto its website a summary of complaints for the 2014 year.

“This shows an apparent lack of priority or focus on quality by the ministry. And, it has not provided detailed information about the complaints and the services at which the most serious incidents proven had occurred.

“However, the ministry states that it is now doing better at recording complaints and the number of complaints has increased during 2013-14. “

Mr Marshall said that while NZ has been claimed to be a world leader for its curriculum, the current education policy focus on participation over quality along with policy changes such as increasing maximum class or centre size from 50 to 150 children run counter to the kind of quality care and education that New Zealanders see as important for children under 5 years.

“There is a lack of incentives for centre owners to put quality above the dollar. The unbridled growth of centre and home-based ECE has led to ECE becoming a competitive industry,” Mr Marshall said.

Alarmingly, unlike other private sector industries the ECE private sector has no regular unannounced inspections. It would seem existing complaint processes do not make it safe for teachers to whistle-blow without putting their job, pay, and career at risk.

The ministry is loath to penalise or cancel the licence of a service that many families are reliant on and due to its objective of 98% participation.

The survey results have sparked considerable attention and shows a national conversation about quality in early childhood education and solutions is needed. Is quality good enough in all centres? Whose view on quality dominates? What can we learn from different perspectives on quality such as the teachers’ perspective? Whose views on quality should take precedence? And, how can quality be made better?

“The Government should pay attention to the ChildForum survey. One quarter of early childhood teachers do not endorse their own product and this should ring alarm bells.”

However, as reflected in media reports, the likelihood is that nothing will change. It is not good for children, it is not good for staff, and it is not good for the reputation of ECE services committed to providing high quality, Mr Marshall said.

The survey report on teacher views of quality in early childhood centres is available at this link: http://www.childforum.com/policy-issues/surveys-and-ece-sector-a-family-data/1323-quality-report-teachers-views.html

About ChildForum: ChildForum is a nonpartisan nation-wide network of ECE services ranging from teacher led (kindergartens, private and community non-profit centres) to parent led (Playcentre, playgroups) , and home-based and hospital ECE services, along with teachers, teacher educators, researchers and people with an interest in early childhood education. ChildForum provides research, advice and resources to help members reflect on the quality of their care and education to young children, keep the sector and others such as policy-makers informed of issues and needs, and encourage better quality throughout the early childhood sector.

… ENDS


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