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Results from a survey on the State of the Early Childhood Sector are the sole focus of the weekly update this week as we think this is important to draw your attention to. The results highlight what is going well and key problems in the sector. There are some very important messages for the future of the sector. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the survey. We are sending copies of the survey results to political parties.
If you are keen to know of other articles and items published in the last week on our website you can still catch up on these by going to our website, click here.
Fears for the future in the early childhood sector
Early Childhood Education has been something of a hot potato for political parties in recent years with the introduction and subsequent tweaking of the 20 hours scheme, the introduction of the 100% qualified teacher target which was then reduced to 80% and the recent ECE Taskforce Report.
Successive Governments have intervened, some would say interfered, in the ECE sector and it now appears that Government is playing a greater role than it ever has in determining the financial sustainability of services, setting standards, closing differences and also creating differences between ECE service groups.
The early childhood education sector is not doing well according to ChildForum’s latest survey.
The survey asked people involved with early childhood education services if things were currently going well or badly for their service and whether they thought the situation would improve or worsen in the next 12 months.
Some of the services which reported things were going well had actually benefited from government changes to funding structures or had managed to successfully adjust to them, while others reported increasing rolls and settled children. Some services had increased the number of hours or days they were open for or had opened new premises. In these services staff morale or that of the parents running the service was said to be high leading to high quality care and education which was reflected in the happiness of the children attending the service.
Most of the problems services were facing centred on funding, policy and government changes. The reduction of the qualified teacher target to 80% and the related funding losses were highlighted by many respondents. This may explain why more teacher-led services reported things were going badly as these services would have borne the brunt of this funding cut. The knock-on effect of this was increasing anxiety and stress among staff which some respondents felt was in turn impacting on the quality of care and education for the children.
Some services were struggling due to increased competition and were suffering from falling rolls. Other problems included lack of funding for children with additional needs, lack of professional development and affordability for families. Unsurprisingly respondents from Canterbury were also struggling to deal with the impact of the recent earthquakes.
Optimism in the sector was very low with the majority of respondents saying they thought nothing was going to improve in the next 12 months and things would only get worse. While community based services were more likely to report that things were currently going well there was little difference in the amount of optimism shown between community-based and private services with many respondents from community-based services also believing things were likely to get worse.
Interestingly the comments from respondents who said they thought things would improve showed that many of those improvements were likely to be internally generated by the services themselves.
Some ECE employers were hopeful that the reduction of the qualified teacher target to 80% may in fact lead to an increase in the number of qualified teachers available on the job market as services re-structured, giving them more choice when looking for new staff.
Less positive was that many felt that funding would continue to be tight and could actually worsen.
If we look back at the issues for the sector prior to childcare services being defined as educational (they were bought under the Department of Education in 1986) and before the first major government reforms of early childhood education resulting from the Education to Be More report of 1988, it seems that many of the issues concerning the sector then, still remain. Issues from that time included: insufficient funding, unequal funding between service types, unqualified staff, affordability of services for families, a lack of Maori control over services for their children and ineffective policy development frameworks, and many of these issues have been raised again in this survey.
News article (click here to read online)
State of the Early Childhood Education Sector, 2011. Report of the survey results (click here to read online).
Appendix A in the report provides a timeline of significant events and turning points in the role of government in early childcare and education for children
The information provided by ChildForum in this newsletter is general information only.
No responsibility is taken for any errors. If you spot an error please inform us so that it can be corrected.
ChildForum Early Childcare and Education Networks, PO Box 58-078, Porirua 5245, NEW ZEALAND
Compare Party Policies by Topic/Subject (2011) (1 match)
OECD on Why and How to Encourage Quality in ECE (1 match)
New Government Working Groups to Provide Advice on Improving ECE Quality (1 match)
Being Informed - 12 December 2011 (1 match)
Home-based Sector Needs and Challenges (1 match)