Prevention, cross-agency coordination and universal service provisionIn its oral submission this week, New Zealand Kindergartens urged the Maori Affairs Select Committee to recommend that Parliament focus on a prevention framework, coordination across government agencies and high quality universally accessible early childhood education services for children and families.
New Zealand Kindergartens recommendations to the Maori Affairs Select Committee include the following key points:
- A prevention framework and a long-term view should underpin efforts to improve the wellbeing of Maori children;
- Services for children and families should be coordinated and integrated across government agencies at the local and national level;
- High quality, accessible and relevant early childhood education services should be universally available to all children;
- Maori leadership and partnerships in early childhood education should be promoted and expanded.
“Kindergarten associations within the NZK network are committed to ensuring all children reach their full potential. We recognise the success of Maori communities and look to contribute to ensuring that success is widespread,” said Clare Wells, Chief Executive of New Zealand Kindergarten.
“Partnering with whanau and communities is one of our core values. We want to build on this and do more. We look forward to working with the government to achieve its goal of increasing the participation of Maori in high quality early childhood education. This means ensuring universal access to early childhood education, promoting effective partnerships with Maori and improving the coordination of community services for children and families at the local and national level.”
New Zealand Kindergartens supports the government commitment to increasing early childhood education participation rates for Maori children. High quality, culturally relevant early childhood education is extremely beneficial to all children and families. However, New Zealand Kindergartens cautions redirecting a limited pool of funding into targeted services at the expense of providing adequate funding for universal provision. While targeting funding for specialised services and communities is important, it needs to be in addition to universal access to services for all children. With 80% of Maori children in mainstream early childhood services, and only a portion of those children enrolled in services currently receiving targeted funding, a large number of Maori children and whanau are in communities where early childhood education services have experienced funding cuts. These cuts impact the quality and accessibility of services.
New Zealand Kindergartens advocates for high quality services with 100% qualified teachers that are universally accessible to all children, responsive to the needs and aspirations of Maori children and whanau, well-coordinated with other services for young children and families, and valued for their long-term benefit to children’s academic achievement and overall wellbeing.
A 2010 ERO report on Success for Maori Children in Early Childhood Services found that kindergartens:
…were more likely than other service types to be responsive to the aspirations and expectations of the parents and whanau of Maori children….Kindergartens were also more likely than other types of services to place a high focus on realising Maori children’s potential to become competent and capable learners.
Kindergarten provides services to Maori children, parents and whanau. After nga kohanga reo, kindergarten has the highest percentage of Maori children attending (20.3%). Kindergarten and nga kohanga reo serve similar percentages of all Maori children enrolled in early childhood education services - 18% and 22% respectively. In 2011, 7,494 Maori children were enrolled in kindergarten.
Kindergarten employs 100% qualified, registered teachers. Research shows that high quality teaching and the relationships between teachers and students are the most important factors in educational outcomes, especially for Maori learners. Teachers must be skilled at knowing, respecting and valuing Maori students, where they come from and building on what they bring with them.
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 services. Nationwide kindergartens provide services for 37,000 enrolled children as well as support for their families and whānau.
1. Ministry of Education (2011) Education Counts, Annual ECE Summary Report.