Early childhood education services are not babysitting services. Right? Wrong!
Certainly, public policy promotes participation in early childhood education as being good for children's development and the early childhood profession sees itself as educators or teachers and not as babysitters. But for many parents putting a child in early childhood education is about having someone to look after the child so they can work, study, recreate, or regain some sanity.
It's not the kiwi way for parents to seek to hothouse their children. No parent in New Zealand needs to send a child to early childhood education to get into their school of choice. There is some confirmation of this in the early findings from Auckland University's Growing Up in New Zealand study which shows that at nine months of age the main reason for the use of regular non-parental care was parent study or work commitments.
The Growing Up study is following 6790 children born in the northern North Island in 2009 and 2010 until they turn 21. In the 2nd report from the study "Now we are Born" data on the children at 9 months is provided. Regular non-parental care was used for 35 per cent of the children for an average of 23 hours per week. Of those in non-parental care for more than eight hours a week 40% used an early childhood centre (such as childcare, Kohanga Reo, or Pacific Islands early childhood centre), and 32% were being looked after by their grandparents. Smaller numbers were with another relative, a nanny or home-based educator.
The "Now we are Born" report states that the main reason children were in non-parental care was because of "their mother’s work or study commitments (87%). A few of these children were in child care to give their mothers some time alone (4.0%), or to establish a relationship with their grandparent(s) (2.7%), while some parents reported that child care was used because it was good for their child’s development, or because they wanted them to mix with other children of the same age"
Of the 65% of children in the study who were not in any regular form of non-parental care situation at nine months, the main reasons given by mothers of children not in any regular non-parental care were that child care was not needed (76%) or that they did not want the children to be cared for by strangers (12%). Barriers of cost, unavailability of places, transport (etc.) were cited by very small numbers of parents (between 1 - 5%).
So what this particular research shows is that for parents with 9 month-olds early childhood education provides a main source of childcare.