Time to get it right for early childhood education
“It’s our time get early childhood education (ECE) back on track, focusing on what’s best for every child and their whānau engaged in an ECE service” said Clare Wells, Chief Executive NZ Kindergartens. “The government’s focus on ensuring the provision of high quality early childhood education is to be applauded.”
“It is heartening to see the government backing research on the importance of the first few years in a child’s life” Clare Wells said. “Cleary, the government wants to make sure where children are in ECE services independent of their caregivers and parents, they benefit from high quality teaching and learning.”
The Minister of Education has announced an advisory group will be set up to develop a 10 year strategic plan for ECE focusing on raising quality, improving equity and parental choice. The group will be supported by a reference group and will present a draft plan for consultation in September.
“We congratulate Professor Carmen Dalli as the chair of the Minister’s advisory group and the other group members who bring a wide range of expertise to the task” Clare Wells said.
The terms of reference for the work identify five themes underpinning the government’s approach: learners at the centre, barrier-free access, quality teaching, quality inclusive public education, and a focus on 21st century learning. “We endorse these themes and see them as a measure against which the plan can be measured as its developed” Clare Wells said.
This is an opportunity to develop a coherent approach across education and social sector agencies. “We must ensure the plan contributes to the government’s broader goals to boost support for children and families and to reduce child poverty” Clare Wells said. “It also provides the opportunity to ‘join up’ our thinking and policy around curriculum and children’s well-being and learning”.
The development of the strategic plan is one of a number of pieces of work being undertaken by the Ministry of Education to ensure a strong future for education. “One in five children in the education system today, attends an ECE service” said Clare Wells. “We expect the Ministry’s work streams will inform and be informed by each other. It will be vital the work is closely aligned to ensure a coherent vision across the education system.”
Fifteen years ago, the sector developed a strategic plan to achieve our vision for ECE in New Zealand – Ngā Huaraki Arataki. The previous government stopped the implementation of that plan and since then, policy changes and reduced funding have undermined the quality of many ECE services.
“The process gives us an opportunity to revisit regulation and funding settings” said Clare Wells. “We need to make sure these settings support the needs, expectations and aspirations of children and whānau and our goal of high quality ECE rather than be driven by the needs of service providers.”
The Minister has set out the government’s aims to improve qualifications and ratios. “The importance of qualified and registered teachers and good teacher:child ratios, particularly for very young children is well documented” Clare Wells said. “Both these are crucial elements in high quality ECE services and we are pleased to see them back on the government’s agenda.”
“We know the critical factors that make a positive difference for children’s learning in their first few years and the impact that has on their learning success through their schooling years” Clare Wells said. “We’ll bring that knowledge and expertise to the table.”
“I’m optimistic that we can get this right for children and families, and look forward to working with the government to achieve that.”