The early childhood education sector is not doing well according to ChildForum’s latest survey.
The survey asked people involved with early childhood education services if things were currently going well or badly for their service and whether they thought the situation would improve or worsen in the next 12 months.
Funding and stress levels are a concern
Overall slightly more respondents (59%) thought things were going well but worryingly more than two-fifths (41%) said things were currently going badly for their service. Teacher-led services were particularly struggling with 61% of respondents from teacher-led services saying they were unhappy with the current situation.
A lack of funding was the biggest concern. While some services had benefitted from the recent changes to the qualified teacher funding which reduced the percentage of qualified teachers a service is required to have to 80%, many reported funding losses and said they were now finding it hard to make ends meet and were being forced to cut extra benefits such as providing lunches or excursions and in the worst cases reducing staff levels.
The recent earthquakes were highlighted by many Canterbury-based respondents who were struggling with repair bills or being forced to move to new premises and coping with falling rolls as families moved out of Christchurch or to other areas of the city.
Many respondents reported that these worries were leading to higher stress levels among staff and taking the focus away from what should be the sector’s core function – caring for and educating children.
Optimism is low
Worryingly few respondents were optimistic for the future. Only 4% said they thought the situation would improve in the next 12 months, compared to 40% who thought things would only get worse. There were fears that the government would make more changes to policy particularly in light of the recent ECE Taskforce Report, creating further disruption for the sector and many forecasted further funding cuts.
The survey shows that more needs to be done to help the sector create stability for its services and its workforce in order to concentrate on making sure children’s needs are met.
With the election less than a month away it will be interesting to see which, if any, political parties can step up to this task.