ChildForum’s open online survey of 900 people working in the ECE sector shows over a quarter (27 per cent) of employees would not endorse their ECE service’s quality in 2017, revealing that little has changed since the lobby group’s last survey in 2014.

ChildForum chief executive Dr Sarah Alexander questions whether service owners/operators and the Ministry of Education have any interest in improving quality.

“Do they consider that the current situation is acceptable and is being adequately managed? If this is the case then this would be like saying that a 73 percent literacy rate is good or that it would be acceptable if only 73 percent of people have access to clean drinking water, when we know we could and should be doing better.”

Alexander points out that the Ministry takes a regulatory perspective on quality, highlighting its claims that 98 per cent of all services meet or exceed licensing standards.

“This does not tell us what ECE is actually like for children and if those working within ECE services would endorse the quality for children.”

She says if things continue along this path there is a real fear that participation in ECE will no longer be regarded as a benefit and instead become a recognised risk factor in the lives of children.

Concerns for the quality of ECE in New Zealand have also been raised by Garrett Kett of Early Childhood United Aotearoa, who claims quality of care and learning provided to children has seemed to take a backseat to licensing as many centres as possible.

“The participation projects as well as targeted funding for building or extending centres in low socio-economic areas have become the catalyst for profiteers, investors and those with deep pockets looking to receive a fairly tidy profit from as little effort as possible to rush into ECE and buy or lease as many centres as they are able to.”

However, the Early Childhood Council (ECC) has questioned the integrity of the ChildForum survey, saying it is “not terribly responsible for a so-called sector lobby group to put scaremongering statements out like this”.

Chief Executive Peter Reynolds says the survey findings need to be taken with “a grain of salt”.

He says that while there are always areas of any sector that could be improved, New Zealand has an excellent and world leading early childhood education curriculum and a model that offers a variety and choice of different ECE options for families and caregivers.

“The ECC advises parents and caregivers to trust their judgement on the ECE services they use, and also advocates for people to do their own research when choosing an ECE provider, to find one that suits them, their child and their family needs,” says Reynolds.

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