Several recent reports have strongly indicated that the most vulnerable children in New Zealand are at risk of missing out on quality early childhood education.
NZEI executive member Hayley Whitaker says these findings should send a clear message to the Government that its changes to early childhood education policy are putting our most vulnerable children at risk.
“The Government needs to restore funding for early childhood education so that all children get better access to qualified teaching and better teacher:child ratios.
“These reports need to be taken seriously because good quality early childhood education is a key indicator for long term success at school. And this is especially crucial for children from lower socio-economic backgrounds.”
“ECE is one of the single biggest influences on education achievement and the effects are still apparent at age 15 and older,’’ Ms Whitaker says.
The reports*, from the Government’s own advisory groups as well as independent research, show that New Zealand is falling behind in its investment in early childhood education.
This comes in the wake of changes to funding for early childhood education that removed an earlier target of 100 percent qualified teachers in ECE centres by 2012.
Instead, the Government has reduced the required teacher qualification rate to 50 percent and reduced the 100 percent funding band to 80 percent.
The reports have concluded that the quality of early childhood education is suffering, partly as a result of these changes.
“The Government’s own advisory groups’ reports make it clear that adult:child ratios, group size and teacher qualification are cornerstone indicators for high quality ECE for children,’’ Ms Whitaker says.
“Quite simply, the evidence shows that children who attend early childhood centres with a higher proportion of qualified, registered teachers get access to better quality early childhood education than those who attend centres with a lower proportion of qualified teachers.”
For instance, a report by Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa/NZ Childcare Association found that children in “100 percent qualified” centres are more likely to have conversations with teachers, partake in shared sustained thinking with teachers and engage in complex play.
The Early Childhood Education Sector Advisory Group has recommended that the Government ensure that from 1 July next year all centre-based services be required to have at least 80 percent registered teachers.
For under twos, the working party recommends a reduction in the adult:child ratios of be 1:3 for children under one and 1:4 in the 1-2 age group. The current ratio is 1:5.
While the Government, in its last Budget targeted “high needs” areas in order to increase participation rates, Ms Whitaker says it is vital that all ECE services are adequately funded to ensure that quality education is provided.