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The Government's ECE Taskforce report was released today

  • For background on the meaning/significance of the ECE Taskforce for early childhood education click here to go an article.
  • For commentary on the ECE Taskforce and its final report click here

The report titled "An Agenda for Amazing Children" is when looked at not about children but about policy for non-parental early childhood education and childcare:  promotion of the childcare sector in particular, advocating for parents to be in paid employment,  and tightening controls on the home-based sector and Nga Kohanga Reo.

Labour's Sue Moroney is critical of the Taskforce's report as it "recommends taking the fee controls off 20 hours ECE and argues that parents and employers should pay more of the funding for early childhood education".

The Green Party's spokesperson,  Catherine Delahunty says "there are worrying hints that this report is trying to line up with the harmful recommendations of the Welfare Working Group, for example by recommending ‘incentives and support for parents to return to paid work’.  

Delahunty and Moroney are both concerned that the Taskforce is reflecting government views that no more than 80% registered teachers in early childhood services is recommended. 

Clare Wells of NZ Kindergartens Inc says she is worried about the potential for significant costs to be transferred to families if the reports funding model is accepted.  Of concern also is the potential for a version of the national standards operating in schools to be the mechanism for measuring performance in the sector.  And the future of kindergartens if the report's recommendation for kindergarten associations to negotiate salaries directly with teachers is supported:  "Associations are dependent on government funding to meet the costs of teachers salaries and any changes in funding would put pay parity in jeopardy", says Clare Wells.

Education Minister Anne Tolley says in her press release:

“The Government was already concerned about the variability across services, the lack of accountability, poor access for many children, and the need for a more targeted funding system. It is heartening that these serious issues have been identified by the Taskforce, and that positive suggestions have been made to deal with these areas of concern.

“Some of the recommendations are already being addressed, through the $91.8 million increased participation programme announced in Budget 2010, and the $30 million early learning information system delivered in Budget 2011 to improve information about participation and system performance, which will allow better monitoring of funding and enable us to give more transparency for parents.

“The Taskforce also recommends eighty per cent registered staff in teacher-led services, which is in line with the Government’s target for 2012, and with 67 per cent of teachers qualified at the moment, we are well on course to reach that figure".

The listed recommendations of the Taskforce are as follows:

1. regulation for a minimum of 80% of all early childhood education staff in teacher-led, centre-based early childhood education services as registered teachers, and that the remaining 20% of staff may include staff in study, or staff with other relevant expertise such as health professionals or staff with fluency in languages other than English

2. establishment of incentives for teacher-led, centre-based services to increase their percentage of teaching staff qualified and registered as early childhood education teachers up to 100%

3. regulation for a ratio of one adult to four children for children under two years old and of one adult to ten children for children aged three to six years old attending licensed early childhood education

4. a group consisting of officials and sector representatives be established to provide advice on early childhood education for under two-year-olds and children with special educational needs that takes account of emerging research

5. officials, in consultation with the sector, investigate the benefits for children of reducing maximum group sizes, both for under and over two-year-olds; the comparative cost-effectiveness of any proposed changes to current regulations; and the feasibility of requiring all services to report to parents on their effective group sizes

6. further funding is allocated for New Zealand-based research into the capacity of all currently funded early childhood education service types to provide high-quality early childhood education for all children, but particularly for under two-year-olds.

7. a cross-government investment strategy is devised which plans proactively to shift Government’s existing money towards higher-value investments, for example those taking place earlier in education or in life

8. a specialist advisory function is put in place to support this strategy, independent of Government and with published criteria and methodology, to advise in detail on the value for money of different programmes and interventions

9. funds are shifted to higher-value early childhood education investments over time by introducing a new funding system for early childhood education in New Zealand

10.the new funding system contains significantly stronger mechanisms than those that currently exist for directing more expenditure to children who will benefit the most from participation in early childhood education, in particular Māori, Pasifika and children from lower socio-economic backgrounds

11. the new funding system supports high-quality early childhood education services through additional funding for features of quality, and discourages expenditure on low-quality services

12.early childhood education licensing regulations are amended to ensure that any new services opening promote the participation of Māori, Pasifika and children from lower socio-economic backgrounds in high-quality early childhood education, and support parents to remain connected to paid work

13. the introduction of more standardised performance and outcome reporting on early childhood education expenditure, to enable significantly better analysis of value in the future.

14. as part of our proposed new funding system, a new model of early childhood education funding is developed to meet two broad purposes:

  • subsidising delivery of services that are customised to meet the early
    childhood education needs and circumstances of individual children; and
  • developing the capacity and improving the quality of early childhood
    education services

15. the development and implementation of the new funding system is undertaken in partnership with the early childhood education sector

16. the new funding mechanism is trialled and is implemented in phases

17. the new funding mechanism is implemented within four years.

18. funds are allocated directly to early childhood education services to recognise and resource settings operating as community hubs

19.work is undertaken with Māori and Pasifka communities to determine ways to provide an over-arching governance and management support structure in Māori immersion early childhood education settings and Pasifika language settings

20. work is undertaken to explore the feasibility of social marketing approaches to raising awareness of the value of early childhood education

21. development of policies that would ensure that children with special education needs are able to access suitable early childhood education services, including:

a. ensuring services have sufficient support, resources and well-qualified staff to identify and work effectively with children with special education needs;

b. making parents and service managers aware that being refused enrolment in an early childhood education service on the grounds of their child’s special education needs, or not being allowed to enrol for as many hours as other children, is a breach of the Human Rights Act 1993; and

c. considering ways to strengthen accountability mechanisms to ensure services comply with the Human Rights Act 1993, including considering amending the Education Act 1989 to enable the Minister of Education to
direct an early childhood education service to enrol a particular child, as she may do in the compulsory schooling sector

22. the development of better processes for capturing information about this group: for example, how many children with a special education need enrolled in early childhood education services are also receiving early intervention support

23. the introduction of the requirement that early childhood education initial teacher education providers ensure their programmes include sufficient study of special education to promote early identification of needs and appropriate teaching practices for children with a special education need

24. the employment or contracting of agents to assist parents of children with special educational needs to locate appropriate early childhood education services for those children and arrange places for them, along with ongoing monitoring for suitability and transition to school

25. as an interim measure, until a new funding system that includes additional targeted support for children with special education is in place, the Equity Funding mechanism for children with special education needs is reviewed to ensure that this funding is being well allocated, and if not, another formula is proposed.

26. a detailed, high-quality evaluation of the implementation of Te Whāriki,in particular focussing on its success for Māori and Pasifika children, children who have English as an additional language, and children with special education needs; and of the level and quality of the early childhood education sector’s assessment practices

27. evaluation of the effectiveness of the schooling sector at recognising and building on the skills and knowledge of children moving from early childhood settings to the early years of school

28. a review of the extent to which initial teacher education and later professional development prepare and support teachers to implement Te Whāriki effectively

29. development of a framework, in collaboration with the early childhood education sector, that measures the extent to which the outcomes of Te Whāriki are being achieved. This framework should be linked to sector performance monitoring.

30. as part of the new funding system, consideration is given to what professional development or other resourcing changes are required to support early childhood education services to provide effective parent support

31. a review of the coherence and effectiveness of current parent support interventions funded by New Zealand government agencies, to ensure they are effective and offer high value for money

32. a review of the effectiveness of spending by Government on non-government agencies providing parent support programmes, to ensure they are effective and offer high value for money.

33. consideration of incentives and assistance to enable employers to support their employees who have young children, possibly as part of the new funding system

34. creation of significantly stronger mechanisms to support parents to remain connected to paid work, by combining existing subsidies from the Ministry of Social Development and Ministry of Education into a single, coherent, transparent payment.

35. early childhood education licensing categories are amended to create two new categories: (1) teacher-led, centre-based services and (2) other services

36. an evidence-based investigation is conducted into whether the licensing criteria and quality measures associated with home-based services provide sufficient regulation; and that regulation and funding decisions are made based on the results of this investigation

37. an assessment of the quality of current home-based services is conducted prior to any further government investment

38. a mandatory performance report is required for early childhood education services aimed at high-quality early childhood education and linked to funding

39. interactive web-based tools are developed that allow parents to compare services in their area and that display services’ performance report results

40. biennial reviews of early childhood education regulations are undertaken with the goal of minimising unnecessary compliance costs, ensuring compliance costs are fairly borne, and that there are appropriate links between licensing, regulation, funding and quality assurance

41. a system of standardised quality assurance of ERO activities is implemented, including regular external audit of reports, to provide parents and services with assurance that information provided is consistent across New Zealand

42. ERO monitoring, evaluation and reporting processes in relation to the quality of early childhood education delivery for children under two years of age are tightened

43. a supplementary review is carried out within three months of the first ERO review

44. any early childhood education service that receives a supplementary ERO review is given immediate targeted support and guidance, and if a further negative review is received then the service’s future is reviewed

45. the nature and quality of the support and any interventions offered to early childhood education services receiving a supplementary review are subject to quality controls and review.

46.the current Tripartite Review by Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust, Te Puni Kōkiri and the Ministry of Education is completed

47.the recommendations of the Gallen Report (2001) and the PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Report (2006) on Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust are revisited, and where appropriate implemented

48.Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust’s reporting and compliance requirements become the same as those required of other early childhood education services

49. provision of governance and management professional development resources for early childhood education services, consistent with that offered to schools

50. setting minimum levels of professional development and training of management staff and governance boards (where applicable) of early childhood education services

51.exploring opportunities for developing governance and management skills for all early childhood education services, with a particular focus on Māori and Pasifika services and those enrolling children from lower socio-economic backgrounds

52.a review of early childhood education teaching qualifications across tertiary providers to ensure the consistency of programme delivery of qualifications. The review should include the content of early childhood education teaching qualifications, and the extent to which they promote elements such as education in cultural competence, positive behaviour guidance, working with children with special education needs and their families, working with under two-year-olds, and leadership education

53. an assessment of the accuracy, consistency and transparency of evidence provision across the teacher registration process

54. a review of the accountability arrangements for the New Zealand Teachers Council, which takes into account the extent to which the needs of the early childhood education sector are being recognised and met

55. a licensing requirement is created to embed into management practice a programme of self-improvement for teacher-led services that includes a specified minimum level of professional development

56. this programme of professional development is assessed as part of Education Review Office activities, and noted in our recommended performance report

57. government facilitates and shares the cost of increased leadership education and support to early childhood education services

58. the requirement for teacher-led early childhood education services to attest to remunerating registered teachers in their employ at a rate published in the Education Circular is removed

59. the development of a comprehensive Māori professional development and high quality advice and guidance programme, by both internal and external providers, and funded by government, is provided for Māori language services

60.the development of a comprehensive Pasifika professional development and high quality advice and guidance programme, by both internal and external providers, and funded by government, is provided for Pasifika language services.

61. establishment of a new, high-quality early childhood education innovation scheme

62. the systematic evaluation of any innovation set up under this funding, to ensure robustness of any new methodologies and ways of working

63. successful innovation in early childhood education is promoted through approving a set of national awards for excellence in early childhood education

64. reporting, every two years, on how policies in early childhood education are minimising or eliminating barriers to innovation

65. further exploration of innovative early childhood education delivery methods, for example, web-based, mobile technology, or distance learning methods for rural and isolated communities.

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