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Early Childhood Alert, No 22, 2016


1. Press release concerning yesterday's rare and horrific incident at an Auckland childcare centre

2. Checklist forms for every centre and home-based service to use to meet the legal requirement of doing a daily check for hazards 

3. Survey results looking at how safe ECE services are as workplaces for adults in NZ and changes that are needed

4. Discussion of risk assessment of playgrounds in centres and why trees and tree climbing can stay

5. Regulations and rules update: How the Health and Safety at Work Act applies to ECE services

6. What alternative arrangements ECE providers can make if forced to close but children need care 

7. Recently published ECE research paper on "Children's participation in disaster risk reduction as curriculum."

8. Are you following the US presidential election?  See this article on what Hillary Clinton is promising for ECE.


Buy, sell, swap, ask for a job or advertise for new staff, get help with your research, start up a new discussion, share and get ideas on any early childhood matters - Take a look and start using the awesome new online Discussion Forums for ECE services and individual members.  
Go to www.childforum.com and near the top of the screen look for the tab "DISCUSSION FORUM" click on the discussion forum to view 

New children's picture book give-away. Have your say on any matter and add a comment to any article, resource, or guide at www.childforum.com  and be in the draw to win one of 5 amazing picture books generously donated by NZ Children's books. The prize draw will be done on the 14 December and the winners will be notified then. Next week's newsletter will include details of the titles and show the covers of the books in the give-away.  So start adding comments today!  


1. Tree incident rare and horrific

The accident at Discoveries Educare in Auckland where several toddlers were injured, one critically, after a tree fell in high winds was a rare and horrific event and one that every early childhood centre around the country will never want to happen, ChildForum says.

“Our hearts and thoughts go out to the children and their families at Discoveries Educare,” ChildForum’s chief executive Dr Sarah Alexander said today.

“Everyone who works in early childhood education feels also for the teachers, staff and owner who must also be affected emotionally while needing to support children and families and deal with questions and investigations.

“Children will need cuddles and understanding now. Many may not outwardly show emotional effects for some days or weeks but such an event will have consequences on the children leading possibly to sleep disturbance and uncharacteristic behaviour and responses. Some may be more scared than others of being alone without an adult beside them or being near high objects or trees.”

However, the event should not be used by anyone to argue for trees to be banned from early childhood centres, Dr Alexander said.
Trees are important natural features and essential within a high quality playground for children. Trees should be available for children to sit under, play under and climb at every early childhood centre. Trees provide shade in summer, shelter in rain, and leaves falling in autumn provide fun for children and materials for art work.

“Until investigations are complete and we know what caused the tree to fall and what might have been done to keep the children safe, it is not possible to make any recommendations.’’

Dr Alexander said the event had highlighted several needs in the way early childhood centres are regulated -- and expectations of teachers, staff, managers and owners.

Currently, the licensing criteria states that at every early childhood centre there must be a daily check for hazards to children, and hazards must be isolated, minimised or eliminated. The list of possible hazards to consider does not mention trees specifically.

Owners and teachers are not necessarily equipped with the skills to know when trees or other objects are unsafe, or to identify other hazards.

“This incident could, perhaps, lead to the Ministry of Education looking into what training owners and teachers have and whether trees are regularly checked by an expert in the care of trees -- an arborist.

“When there are high winds or other adverse weather conditions it is important that teachers are allowed to exercise flexibility in their delivery of the curriculum and can use their judgment to keep children indoors or away from areas that can become unsafe very quickly,” Dr Alexander said.

> Go to more and share the online article


2.  Hazard checklists for ECE services to use daily to meet legal responsibilities  

Print copies and use the Daily Hazard Checklist form - there are different forms for centres and home-based services.

The checklists are being updated in the light of yesterday's tree fall incident at a childcare centre and other recent incidents at early childhood services. These will be available for ECE services from the ChildForum website before or by Thurs 10 November, 9am.


3. How safe are ECE services really as workplaces for adults in NZ? Changes that are needed

More than 700 people took part in the survey from a range of private and community-based ECE services including centre-based and home-based services across New Zealand.

  • Workplace related injuries, mental health and physical problems were suffered by close to one-third of staff (29%) over a 12 month period.
  • High to extreme levels of stress over a typical week were reported by close to one-quarter of staff (23%).
  • Bullying was experienced by one quarter of all staff surveyed (25%) and by as many as 34% of qualified teachers working in general teaching positions at kindergartens and childcare centres. Most bullying took the form of staff being at the receiving end of personal nastiness and prejudices, being made to feel their job was at risk if they did not comply with what they viewed as unfair or unrealistic expectations, and not having control over matters that impeded the quality of their work with children.
  • Workloads were described as being excessive by about one-quarter of staff (24%) while 44% indicated their workloads were just bearable.

Although many staff reported suffering physical injuries or work related mental health issues, comments received as part of the survey suggest they often attributed this to being something that was part and parcel of working in an ECE setting and therefore while the risks were known there was little focus on managing or reducing these risks.

Some staff felt that they could not let on that they had an injury or health issue to their supervisors/employers in case of negative response, and this, combined with reports of bullying suggests that not all early childhood services have a culture of inclusion and respect, and also some may have little real staff involvement in health and safety matters and decisions.

There was no significant difference between reports of health and safety issues for workers at private/commercial and public/community-owned early childhood services.

A smaller proportion of staff at Home-based ECE agencies reported harm (19%) compared to kindergarten staff (28%) and childcare centre staff (30%).

> Go to the findings and recommendations contained in the full report released earlier this year (2016)


4. Assessing playground risk and why trees and tree climbing are not banned and do not have to be banned

When the Health and Safety at Work Act was brought in concerns were expressed by the education sector. For example, does the Act mean children can’t climb trees in ECE anymore?  Then there’s NZS 5828: Playground Equipment and Surfacing to think about.

Well the good news is that it’s pretty much all good news. Far from prohibiting tree climbing, the Health and Safety at Work Act provides the ECE sector with the opportunity to use developmentally appropriate safety measures, taking into account the necessary risk associated with children’s learning and skill development.  In this article we’ll look at how risk assessment, and the legal requirements for Health and Safety and playground standards can combine to develop safety approaches that recognise the goal of Te Whariki:

"To grow up as competent, confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body and spirit...”

> Read more


5. How the Health and Safety at Work Act applies to ECE services

This article provides an easy to read summary and early childhood friendly perspective on the H&S Act.  It also points to specific implications for centres, home-based and franchised ECE operations of the new H&S Act.

Should you be feeling fearful of getting things wrong or bamboozled by all the different advice for schools and businesses out there, hopefully the information here will help your understanding and put your mind at ease.


  • Expectations
  • Liability, who may be fined, who is exempt, and can you be fined for having insurance
  • PCBUs and responsibilities
  • Officers and their roles and responsibilities
  • Election of an H&S representative and setting up of a committee
  • Requirement to provide training for workers and others, and workplace supervision
  • Free training, opportunity for worker certification, and available support for PCBUs
  • Definition of a ‘notifiable event’ and reporting requirements
  • A note about the NZ Standard for Playground Equipment and Surfacing
  • When the premises are used by other people
  • Legal information and guidance
  • Further resources

> Go to H & S Act resource information for ECE


6. Alternative arrangements for the care of children ECE service providers can and should not make 

There is an unplanned event or disaster leading to the forced or recommended temporary closure of an early childhood service.

Parents may still need childcare.  This article discusses temporary arrangements within the law that an ECE service provider can make.

> Go to this guidance 


7. New research - Children's participation in disaster risk reduction as curriculum

Children are always involved in disasters, both natural (fires, floods, earthquakes, tsunami) and man-made (wars and displacements of people). Informed by perspectives embedded within the sociology of childhood, the authors discuss what happened after a major earthquake in Indonesia. In this earthquake many people died or were seriously affected by this tragedy. The focus of this research is on the right of children to participate in matters that affect them through a strategy known as Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). Instead of waiting to deal with children as 'victims' of trauma or injury it is argued that children can work with educators to deal with disaster in a useful and proactive way. Teachers in Indonesia, who had themselves been affected by the earthquake, were asked to consider the possibility of including Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) as curriculum in their early childhood centre. We discuss how the notion of participation is interpreted in this specific context and ask what kind of policy agenda might support this recommendation for DRR to be included as curriculum in countries where disasters are experienced.

> Go to the NZRECE Journal, Vol. 17, for this article by researchers Jane Bone and Dian Fikriani


8. For those following the US Presidential election 

> News story on what Hillary Clinton is promising for ECE - feel free to add comments  



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