ECCE and Child poverty policy paper
Our Children, Our Choice: Priorities for Policy Series - Early childhood care and education, and child poverty
The first years of life are when the foundations are laid for lifelong wellbeing and learning. It is critical that we as families, communities and as a society get this right. In a policy paper on ECCE, CPAG makes ten recommendations which would significantly improve long term educational outcomes for children in poverty, starting from their earliest experiences.
The New Zealand Government is failing in its obligations to protect children’s rights, which include the right to be able to access high quality, culturally responsive education.
The nature and quality of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECCE) provision becomes more critical as children spend more time in care. In 2000, children under 5 years spent an average of 13.5 hours in ECCE. By 2013 that had increased to an average of 21.7 hours. There has been a big increase in the number of children under one year old in childcare - from an average of 15 hours in 2000 to 20 hours a week in 2014.
Children who are already disadvantaged are the most likely to benefit from high quality ECCE provision, and at the same time are the most vulnerable to potential harm.
CPAG is concerned about the lack of access to high quality ECCE services in poorer areas, and the rapid increase in parents enrolling their children in home-based care or playgroup services that have minimal contact with qualified teachers.
A further concern is the inequitable delivery of culturally appropriate ECCE services to Maori and Pacific Islands families.
These issues are particularly important when welfare reforms force parents on benefits to enrol their children into ECCE services from the age of three or face sanctions, including losing half their benefit.
With huge growth in private provision, and an increasingly diverse range of ethnic communities within our society, there must be accountability not only for Government funding of ECCE services but also for ensuring that these services are responsive to families’ languages, cultural values and aspirations for their children.
1. Require all staff in centre-based, teacher-led services who are counted in the teacher: child ratio to be qualified, registered teachers.
2. The Ministry of Education and ERO work together to ensure provision of high quality, culturally and linguistically responsive ECCE services, with particular emphasis on quality for infants and toddlers; EDUCANZ must ensure that students graduating from Initial Teacher Education programmes have the knowledge, competence and dispositions to implement and sustain high quality provision for all children.
3. Policies be generated and resources made available to oversee the enhancement of te reo Maori and Pacific Islands communities’ languages and cultures within the ECCE sector.
4. Culturally attentive ECCE services be resourced to serve as community hubs, providing integrated responses to local needs.
5. Increase the ratios of adults to children for infants and toddlers, and provide clear recommendations and guidance regarding appropriate group size.
6. Government acknowledge the hidden costs of attendance at ECCE and subsidise or fund low income families to enable timely, equitable access to quality ECCE services.
7. Government ends the discriminatory policy of enforcing compulsory ECCE participation for individual beneficiary families and children who are already struggling with multiple challenges, not least of which is poverty.
8. The Ministry of Education develop and implement a strategic plan to ensure equitable nationwide provision of high-quality, culturally responsive, inclusive ECCE programmes for all children.
9. The Ministry of Education provide clear expectations for the extent and nature of supervision of home-based carers, and the Education Review Office be resourced to undertake careful monitoring of the quality of home-based ECCE provision.
10. The Ministry of Education require all home-based educarers to be either qualified teachers, or to attend and complete a required set of professional learning opportunities for home-based provision, which could be offered as modules toward an NZQA certificate in home-based ECCE.