The leaking of ERO’s evaluation of infant and toddler communication and exploration experiences at 235 early childhood services to a newspaper reporter is a serious breach of trust.
An email from ERO to ChildForum the evening before the Herald newspaper printed a story and a piece by a university researcher indicated that it felt forced to release the report early because it had been leaked to the media
ERO has told ChildForum that it is investigating the source of the leak
In answer to questions asked by ChildForum in 2012 concerning ERO’s independence and the sharing of findings from national evaluations with any lobby group or individual prior to public release we were told the following:
- ERO’s independence from government agencies enables it to report publicly and frankly on education matters.
- The Minister of Education is provided with ERO’s national reports before release. This does not impact on the actual information covered in the reports.
- ERO’s national evaluation programme is aligned to and influences the Government’s education priorities.
- In addition to evaluating the progress of current Government education priorities, ERO informs the development of future priorities and proactively notifies the Minister of emerging issues in the sector.
- The Ministry and other education agencies may have input into the reports when ERO requests this, for example to check facts related to Ministry initiatives and activities.
Due to the release of the report being sabotaged, responses from the Minister and Ministry of Education are perhaps of a more defensive nature instead of discussing ERO’s authoritative feedback on the quality of learning experiences provided for under-3s in the ECE services.
Once the media attention dies down it is important that there be a more critical examination of the report, its findings, and implications for informing future policy development and practices in early childhood services.
How robust is the report from a research perspective?
The report is evaluation focused and written for public reading.
It opens up many more interesting questions and it shows more empirical research is needed in the New Zealand context particularly on the topics of transforming childcare practices for under-3s into ‘education and care’ practices and the priorities for teacher/ staff work that are set by management and service owners.
A mixed-methods approach to data collection was undertaken but details are not included in the report about such things as how the informal discussions with teachers, leaders and parents were analysed, the nature of the observations and coding system used, and how reviewer bias was controlled for.
The structural conditions at the ECE services (e.g. adult-child ratios) are mentioned and it is good to see this data included; testing for statistical significance may help to provide a better understanding of relationships between differences in structural conditions and the nature of infant and toddler communication and exploration experiences.