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Early Childhood Alert No. 8, 2019

Part 1 of the results of the 2019 sector confidence survey is now out.  It's such an interesting and good read !!! 

You are welcome to share this with colleagues and others who would be interested.

On Thursday, we will post news regarding Budget 2019 announcements on our website at www.childforum.com  Fingers crossed the Budget will show that the government cares, assuming it does actually care.

The survey will be discussed at the national Summit of ECE Managers and Owners on Friday in Auckland (see info about this event).  See you there.  

 

1) What is going well in services and what is not going well 

Check out all the comments.  You may see your comments here. Take a look and see how things are going for other ECE services.  

Go to the report, here. 

 

Education Minister Chris Hipkins talking early childhood education2) General Summary

The latest and only pre-Budget survey of the early childhood sector has found that the government has a lot of work to do if it is to convince the sector that it cares about young children’s education and care. But this presumes that it actually feels a need to care - and it may not care. 

This finding from the “ChildForum Early Childhood Confidence Survey 2019” of 900 members of the sector comes just ahead of the Government’s release of its annual budget.

The sector has been struggling for some time to cope with multiple issues including child safety, teacher well-being and retention, and funding – which sadly are ongoing and getting worse. 

Following the 2017 election of a new Labour-led coalition Government there was fresh optimism and an expectation of change.  

But there are signs now that hope is fading and disappointment in the Government is setting in. 

While the Government has stated that Budget 2019 will focus on improving the wellbeing of New Zealanders, many of those within the early childhood sector are not expecting to see improvement any time soon.

The picture many respondents gave was one of just trying to survive.

Problems of funding, staffing, pay and conditions, and supporting children with their care and learning needs are significant in the sector.

The survey shows that what helps most is when service managers / owners are able to focus on people rather than primarily on money. When things are going well there is a good team culture, parents and community provide support and positive feedback, and teachers / educators enjoy professional development and growth. It would seem that happy teachers go hand in hand with happy children and happy parents and families.

 

3. Sentiment toward what the government is doing in early childhood education

The proportion of respondents who could not say or were neutral toward government efforts has dropped from 32% to 21%. This drop may be because the Labour-led coalition is around mid-way through its term and has released its draft 10-Year Strategic Plan for ECE and therefore more people are prepared to give an opinion on the government’s action in ECE.

The percentage of respondents who think the government is going in the right direction has crept up slightly from a year ago to 30% from 26%. 

However, respondents still generally feel that the government is not moving in the right direction for early childhood education. The net percentage has declined from negative 16 a year ago to negative 19 now.

 

TABLE 1.  Sector sentiment toward what the government is doing in early childhood education

Year

% Right direction

% Wrong direction

% Can’t say or neutral

Total

Net % confidence in the government

2018

26

42

32

100

-16

2019

30

49

21

100

-19

 

You would think that this finding points to the government having a lot of work to do to convince the sector that it is taking the right actions for early childhood education. But this presumes that the government actually cares enough to want to do this.   

Does the government care? At present it would appear not. As one respondent explained:

“It just feels like we are losing ground against a tide of privatisation, longer hours for parents working, less family time, the cost of living for families and teachers. I had high hopes when the Government was elected but since then there has been little action. The Strategic Plan outlines some very positive statements but then the timelines are so far out. ECE has had no support over the term of the previous government and the privatisation agenda has damaged community based, small private owners and kindergartens.”

This could change if Budget 2019 includes a substantial injection of funding into early childhood education and care, thereby answering any doubts the sector has in the Government.

“Although I feel that the government wants to move in the right direction, I believe they don't have the funding or processes and support in place to effectively reach the goals they are working towards.”

However, there is also a perception that the government is failing to get to grips with the needs of the early childhood sector and is not getting adequate advice or understanding the best evidence.

“I think the government is not focused on the real issues that face the sector. Some of the current decisions being made will actually create other detrimental impacts to our sector that have not been considered or acknowledged by government.”

“Pasifika thrive on language, cultural and community based ECE services. The proposed policy changes will suffocate the Pasifika families and community. There will be no changes for Pasifika education low achievement, high crime rate and high unemployment rate in the future - No change at all, [and], it will escalate the worse for Pasifika communities.”

 

4. Expectations for change

Compared with the same time last year, fewer expect to see improvement and more expect that the situation for the early childhood sector will only worsen. Table 2 below shows that in 2018 with the Labour-led coalition government in power, 23% of respondents believed they would start to see improvement in the sector. But now only 12% are expecting there to be improvement. The 36% who expected things to worsen has jumped to 46%.     

 

TABLE 2.  Expectations for change in the Early Childhood Education and Care sector over the next 12 months

 

% Improve

% Worsen

% Stay the same

Total

Net % who expect improvement

2013

10

56

34

100

-46

2014

7

63

30

100

-57

2018

23

36

41

100

-13

2019

12

46

42

100

-34

 

Respondent’s explanations for the negative outlook included:  

“I don't expect any major change until the next election which is hard as it's not looking good for us financially.”

“Will there be any money or enthusiasm left for ECE by the time negotiations with doctors and primary/secondary is finished? We always seem to be the after-thought.”

“ECE is always at the bottom of the pile in Education. Primary and secondary will wipe out the pool of money with their strikes and in the end ECE will be left with nothing.”

“Due to nothing being done now, there will be no change in the next 12 months and teachers will not be able to continue in these working conditions.”

“National was bad enough but Labour just does not appear to be interested.”

“I feel that we are the forgotten sector.”

“Because the government doesn't care about ECE.”

“We seem to be less important to the government in the world of education.”

“It will take longer for strategic plan benefits to eventuate, and meanwhile the longer we are short staffed and short funded, the worse things get.”

“Because everything moves slow, e.g. extra support for children with additional needs - where is it?”

Therefore, it would appear that reality and disappointment with the government is setting in. Putting out a draft 10-Year Strategic Plan for Early Learning is clearly not enough in the eyes of the early childhood education sector.

The government has a lot of work to do, if it is going to convince the early childhood sector that it is serious about improving the wellbeing of young children, adequately funding, and supporting quality early childhood education and care. 

See the short news story:"Caring about children's early education"   

In the newspaper see what the Minister of Education Chris Hipkins says in reaction to the report "Teachers just trying to survive"

The survey will be discussed at the national Summit of ECE Managers and Owners on Friday in Auckland (see info about this event). 

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