New Zealand Kindergartens (NZK) response to the release of the White Paper for Vulnerable Children
“NZK welcomes the practical initiatives outlined in the White Paper for Vulnerable Children and the recognition of early childhood education services as valuable to the well-being of children and families,” said Clare Wells, Chief Executive of New Zealand Kindergartens.
“However, we are concerned that the White Paper fails to adequately address the underlying systemic issues which contribute to vulnerability, including poverty, and does not include any new initiatives to increase participation in early childhood education or improve quality.”
NZK supports the government goal of 98% of new entrants in schools participating in early childhood education and believes it is essential that the government support universal access to early childhood education in order to reach this goal.
“The current funding model provides for universal access and additional resources for targeted groups. Increasing participation in high quality early childhood education among Maori, Pasifika and low-income communities requires not only funding, but also a focus on effectively planning service provision, ensuring quality, developing partnerships, innovation and community development focused programmes, “ said Clare Wells.
The Minister of Education recently released recommendations of two advisory groups for lifting quality in early childhood education. The White Paper missed an opportunity to include a plan for implementing the recommendations. Research evidence shows that in order to realise the positive outcomes of early childhood education for all children – but especially disadvantaged children – services must be high quality.
In our Green Paper submission, NZK recommended joint Ministerial accountability for the wellbeing of children and we are pleased to see that recommendation was adopted. We believe it shows a commitment to coordinating services at the national and regional level. We look forward to better coordination of services at the local level, and to genuine engagement with communities and support for local initiatives.
NZK supports professional development for teachers and other professionals working directly with children to help them recognise and respond effectively to signs of abuse and welcome the additional support that will be necessary to realise this goal. We support the Working with Children Code of Practice which builds on the professionalism and code of ethics which are integral to successful teaching practice in kindergartens.
NZK is interested in the Vulnerable Kids Information System however we question how it will be integrated with other information systems including the new Early Learning Information system for early childhood education. New systems and practices to identify and support children will need to be established in a way to allow effective prevention of abuse and vulnerability rather than just a response to it. Identification needs to be early enough to ensure effective measures are put in place.
We look forward to working with the Ministry of Education and the other Ministries accountable for children’s wellbeing, as well as regional Children’s Teams, in order to improve outcomes and support all children to realise their full potential.
New Zealand Kindergartens (NZK) Incorporated, Te Putahi Kura Puhou o Aotearoa, is the umbrella organisation representing twenty-nine regional kindergarten associations covering over 435 kindergartens and early childhood education (ECE) services. Nationally kindergartens provide services for 37,000 enrolled children as well as support for their families and whānau. Over one-third of all four year olds enrolled in ECE in New Zealand attend a kindergarten. Almost two-thirds of kindergartens are in low and middle income areas.
The Early Childhood Education Taskforce’s recent report, An Agenda for Amazing Children, concludes that “…investing in early childhood education can be thought of as one of the most effective uses of taxpayer funds.”
Children who attend high-quality early childhood education are better prepared for school, are more likely to stay in school longer and to succeed in school. New Zealand research has found effects of quality early childhood education remain evident at age 16 years. 
 Education Counts, Ministry of Education, Annual ECE Summary Report 2011.
 Ministry of Education, Education Counts, 2010.
 An Agenda for Amazing Children, Final Report of the ECE Taskforce, 2011.
 Wylie, C., Hodgen, E., Hipkins, R., and Vaughan, K. (2008) Competent learners on the edge of adulthood. A summary of key findings from the competent learners @ 16 project. New Zealand Council for Educational Research. Ministry of Education. Wellington. October.