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More Babies in ECE and Big Increase in Family Daycare Enrolments: What are the Risks?


Statistics just released show a continuing increase in 0 – 2 year old children in early childhood education and a substantial percentage increase in home-based enrolments compared with kindergarten, daycare. The statistics come from the annual 1 July Ministry of Education census of licensed early childhood services (Annual ECE summary report 2010) and are shown below.

Enrolments in licensed early childhood services by age as at 1 July (2006 to 2010)

 

Age

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

Difference 2006-10 

 

Number

%

 

Under 1

6,721

7,803

7,894

7,972

8,704

1,983

29.5

 

1 Year

20,390

21,783

23,593

23,917

24,771

4,381

21.5

 

 

Service Types

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

Difference 2006-10

Number

%

Kindergarten

44,435

43,695

41,487

39,346

37,600

-6,835

-15.4

Playcentre

14,888

14,664

14,929

15,171

15,049

161

1.1

Education and Care

86,059

91,733

97,756

101,424

109,204

23,145

26.9

Home-based service

9,802

11,073

13,065

15,054

17,084

7,282

74.3

Kōhanga Reo

9,493

9,236

9,165

9,288

9,370

-123

-1.3

Over the past 5 years there has been a 29% increase in the number of children under one year of age enrolled in a licensed ECE service, and a 21% increase in the number of children aged between 1 and 2 years.  The increase in children enrolled in home-based licensed services has been phenomenal – up by 74% since 2006.  

The actual number increase in the number of children under two years enrolled in ECE is noteworthy but may not be considered too significant considering that the size of NZ’s population is continuing to increase and so is NZ’s birth rate.  Women are tending to have babies later once their careers are established and grandparents and relatives may not be living nearby or be available to provide childcare.

It has long been argued in political circles that childcare matters enormously for mothers thinking of returning to paid employment. However, comments received by ChildForum during November this year from early childcare operators suggest that for the first time many are beginning to struggle to fill all available places for under-twos, e.g. 

“The only thing we have experienced in the last twelve months is less 0 – 18 month olds being enrolled. Mums/Dads are staying at home longer – not as many part-time jobs out there. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing”

“We now have several vacancies for under and over 2s. First time in years. Will probably consider closing U2 as it is costly to keep staff and very demanding emotionally. Mothers not finding part time/full time employment opportunities anymore"

The Commissioner for Children announced in spring of last year that he was investigating the care of under-twos and was unhappy about the growth of participation of under-twos in licensed ECE.  Whether the findings of the report when released, will further influence parental decision-making regarding the care of their child is not known yet.  It is not expected that the Commission will be able to influence parents' employment decisions.

The growth in child enrolments in home-based services has been noted over a number of years now.  Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing can be debated.  On the one hand the educators usually are not qualified, work alone in the home, and typically combine their own family and household responsibilities whilst caring for other people's children.  There are perhaps greater risks involved for children's safety, unless the agency they work for provides good oversight and supervision and provides personal support or relief at times when they are feeling pressured or stressed.

On the other hand, home-based educators legally can not have more than 4 children at a time and so are able to offer a higher adult-child ratio and smaller group size than a dedicated early childhood centre facility with qualified staff working in a team.  

 

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