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Book Launch Speech – Politics in the Playground

Hon Trevor Mallard
Minister of Education

10 July 2001 Speech Notes

Book Launch – Politics in the Playground

It is a pleasure to be here at the launch of Politics in the Playground.

The book has a catchy title and it will probably be applied to a certain playground not far from here, bounded by Bowen and Molesworth Streets.

Helen May’s new book is a comprehensive account of how individual New Zealanders, organisations and governments have helped shape the early childhood sector we have today.

It has been quite a journey - from the days of those first few kindergartens of the 1940s to the 4000 plus early childhood centres today receiving government support.

The huge changes over 50 years hit home in one of the book's stories about how the late Clarence Beeby cleverly convinced one of his Ministers in those early days that kindergarten teachers needed training.

In 1954, Beebs escorted the Hon Ronald Algie, Education Minister of the day, to an afternoon party for about 40 to 50 children and told him to run it.

That hands-on experience showed the Minister that special training was needed.
Yet, as Helen points out, more than a decade would pass before all kindergartens were staffed with trained teachers.

The long struggle of those who work in early childhood education to be recognised as professionals is one of the key themes of this book.
Progress in ECE has rarely been as fast as some of us would have liked.
But we also need to acknowledge that half a century on, many more of our children now get a good quality early childhood education.

But we need to do more – and we will.

I want to restate my commitment towards making a good quality early childhood education an option for all under-fives

Right now a lot of work is underway on developing a strategic plan for the sector.
It will give us a framework for policy over the next 10 years.

Significantly, Helen was part of the working group that recently sent me a report containing a major piece of “blue skies” thinking.

She predicts at the start of her book that the outcome of the planning process is likely to be reform rather revolution.

I agree. Reform is the way to go.

Reform helps us look at what works - and what doesn’t.

It builds on what is in place so that we keep what works and chuck out or replace what doesn’t.

As the book’s final paragraph acknowledges, the struggle to have ECE seen as a valuable part of a child’s education has been won on the political front.

Governments now take early childhood education seriously.

I think we have seen struggle and progress.

In conclusion, I want to pay a tribute to Helen, especially for the leadership role she played with Dr Margaret Carr in the highly successful development of Te Whariki.

I hope that the ‘thinkers’ in early childhood education keep working with government to help provide leadership to an innovative and responsive ECE sector.

ENDS

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