The government’s omnibus Education Legislation Bill appears to include a change in home-based early childhood services that would lift ratios. This has serious implications for the quality of such services.

The notes below outline the changes, which would have the effect of excluding the young children of the educator from the ratios. This could mean that the ratio goes from 1 (unqualified) educator with 4 children under five, to 1:6 or even 1:7.

Not only are the implications profound for teaching and learning – and without wanting to sound like a broken record, these are the most crucial years for a child’s learning – but there are health and safety implications. In the event of a fire, can one person get 7 small children out of a house safely?

I’m not a lawyer, but I have shown these notes to a lawyer and to another person with good legal knowledge. They both agree with the interpretation.

It is very sobering that a government would do this. This is as a time when NZEI is regularly accused by government officials of not looking at “system change” and of being divisive. The Home-based ECE Association has also asked for an inquiry to look at regulation and funding but got nowhere. Yet here is a unilateral change, with profound implications for children, that is being snuck through the system with no consultation.

How can this be? Here’s an idea. A couple of years ago I OIA’d the Minister of Education and asked her for details of meetings she had with an owner of a large corporate style ECE provider. She replied that there were no meetings or correspondence. A few months later, I interviewed the same person. In passing, this is what they said, “Oh yes, the Minister rings me every few months.”

Is it a coincidence that Evolve Education, the new publicly listed ECE provider, is moving aggressively with home-based services? Does its chief executive or chair get a regular call from the Minister? Has there been a conversation about home-based and ratios? I guess we will never know because you certainly can’t find out under the OIA.

Notes on the Education Legislation Bill

The effect of the bill is to exclude the young children of the educator, who is running the home-based care in their home, from the ratios. Previously, the number of children being cared for in a home was limited to 4, including the educator’s children if they were under 6 and not enrolled in school. Now it seems that they’re not included in the ratio at all – in effect, potentially lifting the numbers of very young children in a house with an (unqualified?) caregiver. Depending on how many children the caregiver had, this could rise from a 1:4 ratio to, if they had 3 children under 6, to a 1:7 ratio. Plus, it would seem that another 2 children will be allowed in the house in the after-school programme – in addition, potentially, to the 4 under-six-year-olds + the caregiver’s own children – so 10 or 12 children?

You decide – excerpts from the Bill (with my underlining)

Education Legislation Bill:
To achieve the public policy objectives in the early childhood education and compulsory schooling sectors, the Bill—
enables licensed home-based education and care (ECE) services to simultaneously provide early childhood education and out-of-school care services (subject to constraints). The Bill addresses a discrepancy in treatment between licensed ECE services and provides another option for supporting workforce participation by parents, especially those in rural communities.

 

Subpart 11—Amendments to Part 26 (early childhood education and care)
Clause 30 replaces the definition of home-based education and care service in section 309 with a similar definition that—

excludes the provision of care to children who are 5 years of age and enrolled in school; and

removes the requirement that the service must be provided to fewer than 5 children.

 

The Bill reinstates the requirement that the service be provided to fewer than 5 children in new section 317A(1) (see clause 31).

Clause 31 inserts new section 317A, which sets out requirements applying to the provision of a licensed home-based education and care service. New section 317A requires that—

the number of children to whom a licensed home-based education and care service is provided must not exceed 4 per home; and

while children are receiving the service, the total number of children (aged 13 or younger) in the home, other than the children of the educator providing the service, must not exceed 6

New section 317A inserted (Requirements for licensed home-based education and care service)

After section 317, insert:

317ARequirements for licensed home-based education and care service
(1)
A licensed home-based education and care service may be provided to 1 or more children, up to a total of 4 in any 1 home.

(2)
While children are participating in the service, the total number of children present in the home in which the service is provided (including those receiving the service) must not be more than 6.

(3)
In this section,—

children means children aged 13 years or younger other than children of the educator

educator has the meaning given by regulation 3 of the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008

Subpart 11—Amendments to Part 26 (early childhood education and care) – changes the definition of home-based care from
home-based education and care service means the provision of education or care, for gain or reward, to fewer than 5 children under the age of 6 (in addition to any child enrolled at school who is the child of the person who provides education or care), in—

(a)their own home; or

(b)the home of the person providing the education or care; or

(c)any other home nominated by the parents of the children

to this – ie no limit on the number, other than standard ratios for ECE – but not including the educator’s own children (see below), so in effect lifting ECE ratios

home-based education and care service—

(a)means the provision of education or care, for gain or reward, to children who are under the age of 5 years, or who are 5 years of age but not enrolled in school, in—

(i)the children’s own home; or

(ii)the home of the person providing the education or care; or

(iii)any other home nominated by the parents of the children; but

(b)excludes the provision of education or care to any child of the person providing the service.

Part 2
Consequential amendments to legislative instrument
Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008 (SR 2008/204)
In Schedule 2, under the heading “Who counts as adult or child when applying ratios”, replace item 4 with:

4 For a home-based education and care service, a person present aged under 6 years counts as a child unless the person is enrolled at school or is the child of an educator who provides education and care at the home, or both.

In Schedule 3, under the heading “Who counts as child when applying schedule”, replace item 2 with:

2 For a home-based education and care service, a person present aged under 6 years counts as a child unless the person is enrolled at school or is the child of an educator who provides education and care at the home, or both.

Another ‘consequential amendment’ of the new Education Legislation Bill is:

Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008 (SR 2008/204)
In Schedule 2, under the heading “Who counts as adult or child when applying ratios”, replace item 4 with:

4 For a home-based education and care service, a person present aged under 6 years counts as a child unless the person is enrolled at school or is the child of an educator who provides education and care at the home, or both.

which replaces –

4 For a home-based education and care service, a person present aged under 6 years counts as a child unless the person is enrolled at school and is the child of an educator providing education and care at the home.

Make a submission

The closing date for submissions is February 19.