In response to the article by Susan Bates discussing group size in early childhood education (ECE) settings, this is not an accurate view being presented and it is important that facts are set straight. License size does not indicate a single group size experienced by the children attending that centre. Centres have rooms and divide up their enrolees according to age, philosophical and curriculum-based approaches.  Within each room, you will find smaller groups of children participating in activities with teachers and carers.

Parents visiting and spending time in centres will tell you that groups vary in size from really small to larger groups depending upon the learning activity being undertaken.

Licensed early childhood education in New Zealand is one of the most quality-conscious and renowned in the world. Operating to a world class curriculum.  Quality is an integral part of the education system here; some would argue THE MOST integral, as young minds grow and develop at astonishing rates at this early time.  We also offer a system of choice in New Zealand, where parents, whanau and caregivers can chose the early childhood education provider that best suits them and their child.

The author argues that all children attending childcare centres, kindergartens, Playcentres and Kohanga experience group settings that are harmful. Research however does not clearly endorse this view.  The ECE Taskforce report (2011) “An Agenda for Amazing Children” reaffirms existing adult:child ratio levels and remains silent on mechanical indicators like group size.  The OECD reports “Not all studies find effects of group size on the quality of ECEC: effect sizes are usually small, and the “size” factor is often difficult to single out when staff-child ratios are included in the same analyses.”  (Encouraging Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC), OECD, 2011).

The evidence does show that the environment in which a child is placed is an important element to how children develop socially, emotionally and cognitively. We advocate for quality, and the right for parents, whanau and caregivers to choose the environment that is right for them and their child.  We also know there are good services and those where there is room for improvement, and there are systems in place in New Zealand for this too.  Instead of focusing on group size as one, mechanical factor, quality and learning outcomes are attached to how centres are governed and managed, and the quality of teaching staff.

We believe, calling for regulation when there is no cogent argument reflecting the New Zealand experience is unnecessary. I attended a meeting on this very subject a year-or-so back now, along with a wide range of ECE sector representatives, academics and Ministry officials, and everyone agreed we need more research on this topic about the New Zealand experience, not inflammatory claims and opinions.

The Early Childhood Council advocates for quality early childhood education in New Zealand, but we do not believe there is a need for regulating group size in early childhood education settings.

4 COMMENTS

  1. A task force remaining silent on an issue isn’t an admission that there is no issue to begin with. Peter Reynolds and ECC have a fairly well documented stance on group sizes, ratios, and particularly the target that ECE Unions and other early childhood organisations in New Zealand are asking for which is to have 100% qualified and registered teachers in our early childhood centres.

    Quality seemed to be a fairly ‘integral’ part of this response from Mr. Reynolds, he is however negating the current thought and position of the majority of the early childhood sector (excluding those who seek to become direct benefactors of the extra profit they would gain from increased group sizes, higher ratios, and maintaining the 150 maximum license limit for early childhood centres). A fairly recent literature review by the Brainwave Trust titled “How are we doing?” outlined the factors that are required for children to have optimal brain development (especially in the 0 – 3 year age period). They explained that children need happy, calm, nurturing environments (which Peter commented on in his response), but they also need teachers who are qualified and have both the knowledge and practical experience in order to provide the best care and learning environment for tamariki.

    Furthermore, I find it a little offensive that Mr. Reynolds made this comment in his response – “Instead of focusing on group size as one, mechanical factor, quality and learning outcomes are attached to how centres are governed and managed, and the quality of teaching staff.”

    How is it that Mr. Reynolds can hold this view when he has argued and does argue against centres being required to have 100% qualified and registered teachers? It seems a little contradictory and contrary to a few arguments he has made in the past when the topic of 100% qualified and registered teachers has come up.

    I agree with him though, quality teaching staff is where we should be looking first – which can only be achieved by having a 100% qualified, registered teacher requirement for centres to access the highest level of funding.

    One more thing. Mr. Reynolds also mentioned that larger centres are often separated into smaller rooms which provide smaller group sizes which he is quite correct about. However, he neglected to mention the added stress that can put on children, having to transition up to five times within a centre in the first six years of their lives. Having to transition constantly could lead to anxiety for both the children and their parents/whanau. So either way you look at it, large group sizes or large centres with small rooms, who does the model ultimately look at benefiting? The profiteers of course, from which ECC receives a lot of their membership fees.

  2. Low child/Adult Ratios are key for the children to get a great start to their Education.They need to have cuddles,quiet time,space ,fun in a caring environment with great teachers who can take the time .Listen to the brainwave trust 0 to 3 most important years!
    The pressure is on these Teachers more and more. The funding needs to go back to what it was, then centres can have 100%funding and Qualified Teachers.That will depend on who is in power and we know how that has gone lately.

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