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Not all teachers supported to provide quality early childhood education, survey reveals

stock photo of mat-time in an early childhood centre

Children are not getting the kind of benefits they should in all early childhood centres, a nationwide survey of more than 600 teachers reveals.

And a quarter of these teachers said they would not choose to enrol their children at the centre they worked at or one similar to it.

ChildForum chief executive officer Warwick Marshall said that from a larger online survey of employment in early childhood education (ECE) the responses of 601 teachers at early childcare centres and kindergartens were analysed for this report on centre quality.

About one-fifth of teachers reported not having time to develop relationships with children due mainly to insufficient management support of caregiving practices and low teacher to child ratios.

In the absence of positive conditions teachers sometimes chose to take work home and arrive before they were scheduled to start work or stay longer after work hours, putting themselves at risk of emotional and physical burnout.

A small but, nonetheless, worrying proportion of teachers (12%) reported consistent under-staffing - their centre was operating in breach of the minimum teacher-child ratio regulations, i.e. not enough teachers for the number of children

“When minimum staffing ratios are not maintained added stress is placed on teachers trying to provide quality particularly when dealing with many young children with different needs at one time,” Mr Marshall said.

“There was also concern that while a centre may on paper meet or exceed regulations on ratios, adequate staffing for child supervision was not always possible when adults counted within the ratio were doing other things away from children (e.g. paper work).

“The rules for who counts as a teacher in various situations are possibly not always understood, suggesting a need for more education on this and enforcement or regular spot checking by the Ministry of Education.”

What is more shocking, according to the survey, is a high proportion of teachers in the survey would not want to enrol their own child at the centre they worked at or another comparable one because of reservations about the quality and care of ECE, Mr Marshall said.

“We should be very concerned here as this shows quality is not high enough.”

This report should raise red flags at the Ministry of Education on the quality of early childhood education as teachers are under pressure to provide safe quality care and education but not all are supported to provide quality.

Early childhood teacher and a report author, Karen Payne said that centre operators and the Government should put greater emphasis on relationships in centres as this is essential to support teachers to provide quality care and education.

“Quality relationships between teachers and children are the building blocks of our job and every teacher should be supported to provide quality,” Ms Payne said.

She added that teachers have key insights into quality and their views should be listened to.

While education policy in NZ has focused on increasing children’s participation in early childhood education, an aspect that has received much less attention is the quality of the care provided.

This report has highlighted some major concerns over the quality of teacher-led centres for children that policy makers should not put aside. Greater transparency in quality is needed Mr Marshall said.

The report is available online at


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