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Early to bed gets children’s ECE on the rise

Issue: Volume 94, Number 12

Posted: 13 July 2015
Reference #: 1H9crY

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Who would have thought that texting parents on Sunday evenings reminding them to put them to put their children to bed early would increase early childhood education (ECE) attendance? Or that treating head lice at ECE centres would see more children returning to ECE centres more often?

These are just some of the simple ideas identified by whānau and educators to increase early education enrolments in Weymouth, South Auckland. The strategies are part of a project that the Ministry of Education’s Early Learning Taskforce is leading.

Jilly Tyler, the project lead, is over the moon with the results.

“Since March 2014 enrolments across the seven centres have increased from an average of 70 per cent to 99 per cent. One centre doubled its attendance. Seeing the local centres work collaboratively, rather than competitively, to deliver quality ECE to more kids in South Auckland has been a highlight,” says Jilly.

The project partners the Ministry of Education with Ko Awatea, the quality improvement team of the Counties Manukau District Health Board, to deliver what’s known as Rapid Cycle Change training to seven South Auckland ECE centres struggling with enrolments. This way of working helps people find quick, innovative, and cost-effective solutions to particular issues. Early results decide whether actions should be adopted or abandoned. Ideas are tested in a small way and then scaled up rapidly if they get good results.

“Ministry support was crucial in getting the seven ECE centres working together. Previously, they saw each other as competitors. But our information showed the centres that there were more than enough children needing to be enrolled locally for all to share,” says Jilly.

The centres also thought that expensive marketing was the only way to increase attendance. But instead, they found that simple ideas like texting, or sending parents Christmas cards listing centre activities over January got children back after the holidays.

“At the beginning it was all a bit daunting. But the model made us heave a sigh of relief that we can work on this in small bits and eventually we’ll see change happen in a big way,” says Naomi Diack, one of the leading ECE centre participants.

“Since Weymouth, we have set up two similar projects and are planning to set up others around the country.”

Currently, 96.1 per cent of children starting school have been to ECE. The target is that, in 2016, 98 per cent will have done so. Getting the sector and communities to make changes together, and partnering with others to address children’s health issues, as well as their education needs, is just one of the ways in which we plan to reach the 98 per cent ECE participation target.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 7:09 pm, 13 July 2015

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