Dr Sarah Alexander
Dr Sarah is the Chief Executive of ChildForum (www.childforum.com), and mother of 5 children.
- Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education (University of Otago)
- M.A. (hons)
- B.A. degree
- Higher Diploma of Teaching
- Free Kindergarten Union Teaching Diploma
- Montessori Diploma (dist) London.
- The youngest head teacher of a kindergarten, having had her 19th birthday just weeks before becoming the new head teacher of Riverton Kindergarten, Invercargill.
- New Zealand's first early childhood qualified teacher to complete a Ph.D. (in ECE)
- In the late 1980s/early 1990s Dr Sarah was at the forefront of forging research on quality childcare and she herself worked on developing a multi-perspective view on quality, extending on the then present psychology of child development approach. She was part of a top international group of experts on quality childcare from around the world, who met several times for up to a week at a time in cities such as Budapest and Seville.
Sarah's research areas have included the effects of childcare on children, men in teaching, education for gifted children, women and work, breastfeeding-friendly ECE services, and parent education and support programmes.
Sarah was contracted by the Ministry of Education to research the implementation of the Before Five (1988) reforms - specifically quality within diverse services and the requirement to develop charters and consult with parents and community if services wished to receive funding.
Sarah authored the Ministry of Education's Best Evidence synthesis on "Quality Teaching: Early Foundations".
She taught at Wellington College of Education for a couple of years before moving up to Massey University's Dept of Educational Psychology, where she was able to extend her academic career before then working to establish and build ChildForum.
She is passionate about making a difference for children and she brings a strong intellect and deeply caring approach to all that she does. One thing she values highly is the capacity to provide independent, personal support to families, teachers and those she can help who are struggling with issues at their service and wanting to get better outcomes for children.
She has a remarkable depth and breadth of experience, in early childhood teaching, ECE management and business support, training student teachers, academia, international speaking, writing, publishing and event organisation.
Her achievements are many. A few of her past achievements are:
- Uncovering and placing a public spotlight on issues impacting on children, parents and teachers at the Auckland Kindergarten Association resulting in a halt of its planned programme to change all kindergartens to 7-hour day year-round childcare services and resulting in an overhaul of its management to go back to being truly community-based.
- Requesting transparency from the Ministry of Education in its handling of complaints against ECE services and placing pressure on it through Official Information Act requests and talking with journalists and media agencies about this, leading to (a) the ministry substantially lifting its rate of investigation of complaints, and (b) the ministry now making available an annual report on complaints.
- Building public and sector awareness of gender-bias in ECE. This includes doing the first study on the experiences of male early childhood teachers in the wake of the Christchurch Civic Centre and Wellington hospital sex abuse cases. Developing the concept of a Men in Early Childhood Education support group, bringing together male teachers throughout the country to meet each other for the very first ECE Men's Summit, leading to the formation of what is known today as EC-Menz. Writing about and advocating for gender balance in the ECE workforce over the past 20 or so years and going forward until such time as at least 10 percent of the workforce are male.
- Holding NZEI, the teachers' union, to account for its no-touch policy and successfully arguing that there was a place for touch in caring for children in early childhood education programmes, leading to the NZEI modifying its stance and virtual abolition of the policy.