Parents can place their trust in early childhood education

Issue: Volume 94, Number 8

Posted: 18 May 2015
Reference #: 1H9cr9

There has been a lot of debate about how good New Zealand’s early childhood education is in the media recently. That’s a good thing. New Zealand parents are entitled to hear every side of the story when it comes to the care of their kids. But not everything that’s been said is accurate. So I wrote an opinion piece for the New Zealand Herald. I want to share this in the pages of the Education Gazette.

Here are the facts.

First, as you know, quality early childhood education can make a real difference to a child’s life. All of the research shows that kids who experience it do better at later learning and in life.

Second, New Zealand’s early childhood education system is one of the best in the world. We consistently rank in the top three countries on teacher qualifications and the numbers of staff to children. We also rank near the top of the tables on funding.
Our system provides parents with good quality services, with good access to a range of different kinds of services, and affordability through the 20 hours early childhood education policy.

Third, not every service starts out perfect. As the media has pointed out, we in the Ministry of Education are working with many services to improve how they help kids to learn, and how centres are managed. Kids are safe at these services, but we are working to improve the education they are getting. The overwhelming majority of services are providing good quality teaching and learning. In centres reviewed by the Education Review Office (ERO) since mid-2013, 88 per cent rated at the top rating or second top of quality measures.

If the health, safety and the care of kids is at risk in any way, we have the power to take action – and we do. In any one year, there is a very small group, less than one per cent of all services, that we have serious concerns about. With those services, we are hands-on. We increase the frequency of checks, or put them on a provisional or suspended licence. We also cancel licences if we need to. Services have to display their licences, so parents can see if their child’s service is on a provisional licence. All our concerns are noted on provisional licences.

Fourth, private providers are subject to the same checks and controls as everyone else. The same health and safety regulations, the same curriculum and the same ERO reviews. As the media has noted, ERO reports show safety and quality at these centres is just as high as for other centres.

Fifth, New Zealand’s early childhood education services are staffed by skilled and capable teachers who care and who want to make a difference. Seventy five per cent of staff in teacher-led services are qualified, registered teachers. That’s a three-year qualification, followed by two years on-the-job professional development before full registration. That’s exactly the same as for primary school teachers. Those that aren’t qualified are generally studying to qualify, or have relevant experience.

Let me be clear. I’m not saying we’ve got everything right. We still have a way to go on consistency of service and on ensuring that every parent has access to early learning for their child. With hundreds of thousands of parents, around 200,000 children enrolled, and 4,000 centres, there will always be stories about services that haven’t yet got it right yet.

If you’re a parent in most parts of the country, you will have access to quality early learning services staffed by skilled and caring teachers.

Just as you can rely on your local school, you can rely on your local early childhood service. They will work with you to give your child a great start in life.

BY Peter Hughes
Ministry of Education,

Posted: 12:37 pm, 18 May 2015

Get new listings like these in your email
Set up email alerts