The Ministry of Education’s latest decision to allow early childhood education (ECE) centres to have an extra 100 children in one space undermines standards.
Currently, a service can be licensed to have 50 children over two years old or 25 children under two years old. This requirement effectively establishes the maximum group size. To extend the centre size by default extends the group size.
“As at 1 July, groups of up to 150 children over two years old (75 under two years old) can occupy the same space at the same time – for example in the playground or while having a meal.” says Clare Wells, Chief Executive New Zealand Kindergartens (NZK).
“Being part of such a large group is not in the best interests of children and detrimental to their health, safety and wellbeing.” said Clare Wells.
“Group size is an important indicator of quality. The size of the group has an effect on how children settle in to a centre, form relationships, interact with other children and adults, and build their confidence and self esteem. It matters in terms of health and safety – research shows the bigger the group the increased risk of illness and infectious disease for example.”
The Ministry of Education says the change will have no effect on quality. “Imagine a child just over two years old in a group with 149 other children. While there would have to be at least 15 adults present, only 50% have to be qualified teachers. It is difficult to see how quality can be maintained in that situation.” said Clare Wells.
Kindergartens within the NZK network have worked to reduce group size to further improve the quality of interactions of children, and children with teachers, and to create an environment where children feel safe and are more likely to engage and participate with their peers. “Our view is based on the research evidence about what constitutes quality ECE provision and what is optimal for children to thrive in settings outside the home.” said Clare Wells.
“Our interest now is to ensure that ECE is high quality and that the needs of children remain centre-stage of ECE policy development.” Clare Wells said.
For more information, please contact: Clare Wells Tel: 04 471 0775 Chief Executive Mob: 0272 955 044 New Zealand Kindergarten Inc www.nzkindergarten.org.nz