A new report by the Education Review Office gives a glimpse into the employment practices of kindergartens and education and care centres (childcare) and employer responsibilities.
ERO officers gathered information about employment practices during the normal course of reviewing 235 centres in Term 2, 2013. The 235 centres reported on were:
- 55 kindergartens owned by one of 8 kindergarten associations
- 24 childcare centres owned by one of 4 operators
- 156 standalone childcare centres
As the ERO is not an employment specialist the information reported is of a general nature only.
The centres belonging to the 4 childcare operators and 8 kindergarten associations were better than the stand-alone services in having more comprehensive systems for recruitment, employment and providing staff with professional development and support according to ERO.
Effective employment practices were not evident or very minimal at 32% of centres (74 childcare centres and 2 kindergartens). These centres are described by ERO as having poor leadership and lack of up-to-date employment policies and procedures. Some of these centres also had new owners or managers.
Recruitment and appointment practices were not managed well at 16% of centres (38 childcare centres and 1 kindergarten) and the issues were largely related to not verifying qualifications and not conducting referee checks. In many of these centres ERO noticed that the written job descriptions were generic.
At 29 of the 180 childcare centres there was inadequate support for staff development, and this included limited or non-existent induction processes along with ad hoc and inadequately resourced professional development.
Appraisal processes to improve staff performance were at a low level and often not linked to the Registered Teacher Criteria at 38% of centres (3 kindergartens and 88 childcare centres). Observations of teaching practice were not part of the process. Although ERO found self reflection to be common, it could not see how this was being linked to teaching practice. In a few centres, no appraisal had taken place in 2012 and no support was given by centre employers for provisionally registered teachers to gain full teacher registration.
Twenty percent of services told ERO that one or more internal or external complaints about staff had been received in the last 3 years. Although most of these complaints were well-managed, centres often exercised a ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy where the same processes were applied for minor issues and serious misconduct. Some services were using the policy for complaints about non-compliance with the Government ECE regulations and criteria rather than a policy specifically related to making a complaint about staff.
ERO reports that it came across instances in a few services where complaints about staff were not reported to the NZ Teachers Council even though mandatory reporting applies to registered teachers.
In 10% of centres police vetting procedures and practices were not robust. Issues included written procedures lacking detail to guide the process, centres not being aware of the requirement to vet every three years, or not police vetting personnel as required. As part of the registration process, police vetting is carried out by NZ Teachers Council for teachers and so the problem lay with not all centres having robust procedures and practices for the vetting of non-teacher registered staff or police not being informed to vet personnel as required
ERO concludes its report with the comment that "this evaluation highlights several issues that have the potential to put the safety and wellbeing of young children at risk".
In particular it is alarming that not every centre could show ERO that it had robust checks in place at the time staff are being appointed to ensure qualifications are verified and referee checks are conducted and some centres were not aware of their obligations with regard to police vetting
ERO suggests there is also a need for policy-makers to address the matter of identifying and reporting on issues of competence and conduct when staff are not qualified and registered as teachers.
The ERO report is titled "Improving quality - employment responsibilities in kindergartens and education and care services", published May 2014.