In preparation for a meeting on 26 April 2019 with the Secretary for Education Iona Holsted and two of her officials, Dr Sarah Alexander drafted the following set of 7 recommendations to present. She had previously conducted a major review of evidence on what happened and the handling of a serious incident involving a young toddler choking on raw apple at a centre in 2016. These recommendations arose from her findings on what went wrong and what could be learnt from the case.
Let us see what changes the Ministry makes subsequent to the release of the report on the tragic incident and how many months or years it takes for each of the recommended changes to be implemented.
1. For the avoidance of any doubt and to make it very clear that high-risk food should not be given to children the Ministry of Education without any further delay must add into its licensing criteria that services follow the Ministry of Health guidelines for food safety e.g. ”no child is to be provided food known to be a high risk for choking where the texture has not been altered to reduce risk, according to Ministry of Health guidelines for food safety.”
2. Better public education on foods that are high risk for choking and what adults and early childhood services can do to prevent food-related choking is something that the Ministry of Education needs to work with the Ministry of Health on.
3. The first aid training requirements must be reviewed. Changes recommended are that: (a) all staff who are counted as first aid qualified in a centre must be able to correctly demonstrate in practice the recommended first-aid for an infant and a young child who is choking, and (b) more than the 1 teacher currently per 50 children should be required to hold a recognised first aid qualification especially in case of a serious incident that may require at least two adults to be involved in administering first aid, and in each classroom within a centre there should be at least one or more adults who are first-aid qualified.
4. Following every serious incident involving hospitalisation or death the Ministry of Education must carry out a full licensing inspection of the early childhood service. It should not be left to grieving family members or others to make a complaint against a service before the Ministry undertakes a compliance inspection.
5. The Ministry of Education must take steps to communicate with families following a serious incident, demonstrate an ethic of care to the child and family, and show it expects the same of service providers.
6. When a serious incident involving a child occurs the Ministry of Education must act to properly investigate and make its report publicly available. The report must include details on the actions and factors that led to the incident and what can be learned to reduce the chance of something similar happening again, thereby improving safety. .
7. And finally, in the early childhood sector we really need to see the Ministry of Education accepting responsibility along with it learning to be more open and transparent in its response to serious incidents.
- The report: A tragic incident in early childhood education and care in NZ, and a rebuttal of the ministry's claims to the media
- A review of the Ministry of Education's regulatory work is needed