Increasing early childhood education enrolment and attendance rates

Full reference
Tyler, J., Davies, M. & Bennett, B. (2018). Increasing early childhood education enrolment and attendance rates in South Auckland, New Zealand. NZ International Research in Early Childhood Education Journal, 21(1), 100–111. Retrieved from

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Original Evaluation Paper
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Increasing early childhood education enrolment and attendance rates in South Auckland, New Zealand

Jilly Tyler*, Monique Davies* and Brandon Bennett**
* Ko Awatea, Counties Manukau Health, Otahuhu NZ 
** Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, USA


This paper reports on a project to increase enrolment and attendance rates at seven early childhood education (ECE) centres in socio-economically deprived areas of Auckland, New Zealand, between January and June 2014. Participating centres used Breakthrough Series collaborative methodology with the Model for Improvement (Langley et al., 2009) to develop and test change ideas according to local context. Enrolment and attendance data were collected weekly using a custom-designed spreadsheet which provided centres with individualised data and aggregated overall project data. Data were analysed using run charts. Overall median enrolment increased from 76.4% to 88.9%, and overall median attendance increased from 44.9% to 59.2%. The project showed that staff in ECE centres can use Breakthrough Series Collaborative methodology with the Model for Improvement to increase enrolment and attendance rates without extra government funding. The project also built the capability of ECE centre staff to effect improvement, reducing future need to procure external expertise to lead change. This approach to change can contribute to closing the gaps in ECE attendance among socio-economic and ethnic groups who typically have lower rates of participation.

Key words: Enrolment, attendance, improvement methodology, participation, socio-economic deprivation, ethnicity.



In New Zealand there is wide variation in the levels of educational success among different population groups, with those at the lower end more likely to be from Māori, Pacific Island or lower socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds (NZQA, 2015). Children who do not participate in ECE, or who attend regularly for less than one year, are disproportionately from these same groups (Mitchell, et al., 2013).

Unlike most other countries in the OECD, nearly all of NZ’s ECE services are publicly funded privately owned services. ECE services in New Zealand must be licensed as in compliance with regulations by the Ministry of Education to operate (Education Counts, 2016a). Having a licence entitles ECE services to funding, which was estimated in 2010 by the Ministry of Education to cover approximately 83% of the cost of each child’s attendance at the centre (Ministry of Education, 2010). Centres also obtain revenue from fees and charges to families and other sources such as community donations.

Over the past decade there has been a strong policy focus on increasing the number of children in ECE and the time they spend in ECE prior to starting school, along with increasing the supply of child places.  The introduction of the 20-Hours Free ECE policy in 2007 for 3 to 5 year old children made ECE more financially affordable for many families.  This was followed by  the Government making ‘promoting participation’ its major policy goal for ECE, supported by promotional campaigns and setting a Better Public Service target of 98% of children participating in ECE in the year before starting school by 2016 (Ministry of Social Development, 2012).


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