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.