The temperature is rising in ECE as flaws in the current model grow ever clearer 

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act now

  • Send a message to Parliament using the “Stop the ECE Freeze” form on beststart.org.nz. You do not have to provide any personal details, apart from an email address.
  • Email EA your ideas on how we can keep raising the issues. (See form at bottom of this post)
  • Discuss the issues on social media and with friends and family – #liftthefreezeinece #100%foryoungchildren #qualityteachersmakeadifference

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“I will not compromise my practice, the relationships I have with children and whānau, and certainly not the expectations I have of myself to deliver a quality teaching and learning programme.”

Kindergarten head teacher Judith Nowotarski’s strong words at a rally in Wellington echoed feelings throughout the sector as the crisis in ECE deepens. The government’s decision to push on with a corporatefriendly and “hands-off” ECE model, with reduced funding, means pressure is building for change.

The model relies on the professionalism and Herculean efforts of educators, many of whom work impossibly long hours of contact time. “While we face adversity, we will not compromise what we do for children and their whānau,” said Nowotarski, a former NZEI president from Taranaki.

So far, close to a thousand NZEI members have sent an email message to the government, “ECE Funding Freeze Leaves Babies and Toddlers in the Cold” from the Best Start website. The government responded by having ministry officials write a rather chilly response to emailers, asking for personal details.

But members will not be intimidated. Building on the agreement reached with ECECA employers last year to jointly campaign for adequate funding for quality ECE, members are also looking to other employers in the sector to unite around this call. This coalition would campaign for the reinstatement of funding for 100% qualified teachers.

The 100% funding cut stripped hundreds of millions of dollars from the sector, and has been particularly devastating for services such as kindergartens that have maintained 100% qualified ratios despite the cuts.

Minister Hekia Parata’s response has been to continue with the line that funding for the sector has doubled since 2008, but this is disingenuous. The increased funding simply covers the huge increase in numbers of children attending ECE for longer hours, inflation, and other costs such as participation initiatives and the twenty-hours free policy. Per child funding fell due to the cuts.

Much of the new funding is going to large corporate-style providers, which run as hard-nosed businesses aimed at driving down wage costs. Yet “wage costs”, meaning qualified, professional staff, are a key determinant of quality provision in the sector. More than half the sector is now commercialised.

NZEI members are calling on government for more investment in quality ECE in the 2017 Budget.

Parents’ right to know

The Right to Know movement emerged in the 1970s in the US as a response to environmental and industrial hazards, and later developed into a Right to Know what is in your food. As the corporate agenda moves to social services, parents have a right to know what is in their ECE.

A recent Child Forum survey and an earlier NZEI survey indicate that a significant number of services regularly break the law on ratios of staff to children. There are also widespread anecdotal reports of very poor practices at some services, despite the best efforts of staff.

Parents have a right to know if their service breaks the law on ratios; or if their children cannot access best-practice teaching and learning, despite aggressive marketing that claims this. ERO reports on compliance are unreliable as there is no spot-checking of services, and it has a policy of not “digging for dirt”, instead “digging for gold”.

NZEI research shows that busy parents will generally not complain about a service if they have a good relationship with staff. And staff, who know about the poor practices, are simply too afraid to speak up – afraid of losing their job, or their hours, or of getting a “reputation” so that they cannot get a job in another local centre.

As one ECE teacher put it, “I feel ethically bound to make a complaint regarding a centre I am now working in.

But I am afraid to do so. I need a reference from this employer. Without it, I am screwed if I want to work in ECE.” But worse still is that educators get no support to make complaints to the authorities. “ERO has put the onus completely on me to report incidences concerning the welfare of children, and are not willing to supply any kind of support or protection around the process.”

The autumn issue of EA will investigate how educators can safely raise issues about poor practice. Email your concerns, stories and ideas to ea@nzei.org.nz.

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Email EA your ideas on how we can keep raising the issues

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