ERO last reported in 2016 that a centre met all legal obligations, was safe and that nurturing relationships were evident between children and teachers.
The Ministry of Education assumed the centre was operating well and was funding it accordingly to care for and teach children.
That is until anonymous complaints against the centre were received by MyECE.org.nz in July this year.
My ECE reviewed the complaints and it requested the Ministry investigate and intervene quickly to close the centre to protect children. Additionally it asked the Ministry to inform the Education Council responsible for teacher registration and provide support for children who may have suffered mental, physical, and emotional trauma.
Allegations concerned the owner/manager and a family member who worked as a teacher at the centre.
The allegations included: shutting children in a back room, withholding of food, restraining children at tables, shaming and bullying children, force-feeding, putting children into cots they could not get out of (effectively locking them in), putting children to bed as a method of punishment, forcefully holding children down on beds for up to an hour while other children watched, and dragging and rough handling children.
The centre concerned was Sealey Street Childcare in Thames, licensed for 30 children.
On July 20th the Ministry suspended the centre’s licence to operate pending investigation.
The Ministry found the centre had not been complying with the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008 and the Licensing Criteria for Early Childhood Education & Care Services 2008 – and had multiple breaches specifically in regard to: “the curriculum, premises and facilities, governance, management and administration and inappropriate child behaviour management strategies.”
The centre’s licence to operate was withdrawn effective from August 27th.
The Ministry of Education have just sent a letter to parents, dated 31st August, informing them of the permanent closure. No mentions of offers of psychological help for children or compensation are included in the letter.
ChildForum chief executive Dr Sarah Alexander is concerned for the wellbeing of children who have attended the centre at any time since it opened in 2012.
Dr Alexander says that she believes both the Ministry of Education and the Education Review Office have let children down along with their parents and families who trusted that such things would never occur at a government licensed and funded service.
“Unfortunately without the Ministry of Education undertaking regular unannounced visits of early childhood services what goes on behind closed doors tends to stay behind closed doors and is usually not known until there is a tragedy or someone is prepared to come forward, often at risk to themselves, with a complaint. Making a complaint is not easy and can put complainants in a difficult position, so we are very grateful to those who spoke up in this case."
“Our early childhood sector can do better than this. And we must!” Dr Alexander says.
"ChildForum does not support poor and harmful practices and neither do services that are committed to upholding the Code of Rights for Children in Early Childhood Education and follow the Code of Ethical Conduct for Early Childhood Education Services."