Early learning sector welcomes new child protection resource

Issue: Volume 100, Number 4

Posted: 8 April 2021
Reference #: 1HAJcJ

A digital protection resource, with the wellbeing of tamariki at its heart, will give kaiako the confidence to know how to recognise, respond to, and report suspected child abuse and neglect.

The Ministry of Education, alongside Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand and Safeguarding Children, has developed a digital child protection resource specifically for the early learning sector.

The early learning sector is uniquely placed to help to protect and safeguard children, says Willow Duffy.

The early learning sector is uniquely placed to help to protect and safeguard children, says Willow Duffy.

Chief executive of Safeguarding Children, Willow Duffy, says the early learning sector is uniquely placed to help protect and safeguard children. Teachers play a key role in preventing, recognising and responding to abuse and neglect, she says.

“They have a unique role with their families – they know their families so well and have an insight into the child’s world that many other agencies and organisations don’t have.

“They also have a unique insight into child development. Sometimes recognising that a child may be experiencing abuse or neglect is recognising that they are missing their developmental milestones,” she says.

Support and commitment vital

Willow says it’s important that child protection training is supported by an organisational commitment.

“Those messages have to come from the top down: the support, encouragement, guidance and commitment have to be there. For example, putting child protection cases on the agenda so when they have staff meetings, they can bring cases to the group and discuss them together and work out how to actually manage the case.

“Nobody should be making a child protection decision – even at an early intervention stage – on their own. It’s talking together, supporting each other, developing a plan and having all their procedures sorted out,” she says.

“There are two aspects: providing training around child protection and keeping children safe; also the systems and processes that support that training and support the frontline practitioners to follow processes that will ultimately result in the children being safe.”

Workforce voice

Safeguarding Children are experts in child protection. This expertise has been developed through inside knowledge and experience. 

“As well as most of us having, or having had, frontline roles ourselves, we use surveys to gain an insight of what it’s like for them – to hear their stories, challenges, the issues that they face that can either aid or hinder the protection of children,” explains Willow.

“We use that information so the voices of the workforce are woven through our training, so they can connect with the information.

“Anybody could make a list of signs of abuse and neglect, but it’s engaging the person who is going to be using that training out in the field to bring it to life.”

The interactive module will help staff understand their role and responsibilities to safeguard, protect and support the wellbeing of tamariki; and to learn how to recognise, respond to, record and report signs, symptoms and behaviours of child abuse and neglect.

“The first thing we do is set the scene and show the state of play in New Zealand and the short and long-term impact on children. There will be children in their centres who will have experienced trauma, and they learn how that impacts them, affects brain development and manifests in their behaviour.”

Early intervention

Early learning The module explains the legislation that’s in place to protect children, as Willow says feedback from the sector has been that staff worry about information sharing and breaking privacy.

There’s a focus on ensuring that early learning centres have robust child protection policies and procedures and codes of conduct; as well as a commitment to regular training.

“There has to be a commitment and an investment in actually seeing this through so the children have the best chance of getting the help they need early. If a case is picked up by Oranga Tamariki or the Police, it’s because the child is at serious risk.

“There will have been many opportunities prior to that to get help, reach out and work in partnership with the whānau to see whether we can improve things for the child before it gets to a child protection situation. Because, if you look back at some of our serious cases, there are so many missed opportunities.”

Catching the ‘hot potato’

Willow describes child protection concerns as being like a hot potato, which people want to quickly pass on to somebody else. But she says often there’s nobody there to catch the ‘potato’.

“So it’s having those systems and processes in the workplace to follow up – who’s going to pick that up. That’s where the role of the designated person comes in. It’s making sure that ECE staff know what is available and how the system works.

“All of that is in the course – what to do with that information, how to record it and the importance of the organisation making sure that their staff have support. “Having a difficult conversation with a team member or whānau is stressful, and it’s having that support, knowledge and skills to make it easier for people to protect children and advocate for them,” says Willow.

PLD is timely

The online module will give kaiako the confidence to know how to recognise and respond to suspected abuse, says Nikki Parsons, general manager of Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand.

“A lot of kaiako don’t know where to go, or whether what they are observing, or the feelings they have, are correct. It’s about clarifying that, having really good policies in place to keep everyone safe and having a really clear process for the kaiako to know what their obligations are to tamariki, whānau, and also to themselves,” says Nikki.

“There are some incredible courses and webinars but people can’t afford to go, so having this resource online and free is amazing.

We’re really pleased that the Ministry has been so responsive to the growing need to improve and access the tools online to support tamariki wellbeing.

“It was very important from the Ministry’s perspective that kaiako be supported to engage with tamariki and whānau in a culturally responsive way.

This is also a very important component of the course for Te Rito Maioha, with our strong bicultural kaupapa,” she says.

Supporting whānau

It is hoped the resource will build awareness and confidence to know how to support whānau through the process. There is a section on how to raise issues with parents and whānau, which Nikki says is useful.

“Sometimes, if we talk to a family about suspected abuse, they may just up and leave. Then the child’s gone and we can’t do anything about it.

“It’s about giving staff strategies in how to deal with that and also where to go if they need more help. It’s quite a responsibility for staff and quite a scary thing if you’ve never done it before,” she says.



The course ensures kaiako can feel confident in dealing with wellbeing concerns for tamariki,” says Margie Meleisea, senior education advisor for the Nelson Tasman Kindergarten Association.

As one of the early testers of the e-learning module, Margie says she envisages it being used as an induction tool, as well as a resource that kaiako would revisit every year.

“I would use it as an effective review tool when kaiako are making risk and wellbeing assessments of tamariki and are unsure about making decisions or judgements,” says Margie.

“While the nature of this topic is, of course, emotive, I felt it was all in context and not made dramatic. The videos, interactive sessions, and quizzes all strengthened the messages.

The provision of support service contacts for kaiako completing the course ensures personal issues that this mahi may awaken are acknowledged.

“It will further empower kaiako to feel confident and be open with whānau in managing concerns and reports of concern,” she says.

The child protection e-learning module has been developed in response to the growing need to improve access to tools and guidance that support child wellbeing. It will be free and accessible for all staff employed in the early childhood education sector through the Ministry of Education’s learning management system.

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

Posted: 8:52 AM, 8 April 2021

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