|NEW ZEALAND'S EDUCATION
The make-up of two working groups to provide Government with advice on improving the quality of ECE services was announced by the Education Minister, Hekia Parata, today.
On the 14th October 2011 the former Minister of Education, Anne Tolley, stated in response to its ECE Taskforce report that it would be seeking further advice from ECE sector representatives via working groups. Nominations were sought for members for two advisory groups - one on improving the quality of ECE sector wide (excluding Koh?nga Reo) and one on improving the quality of ECE for children under 2 years. The groups were to be made up of no less than 4 members and no more than 8 members who would receive a daily fee payment of $250.00 plus travel and accommodation.
Nominations for positions on the advisory groups closed on the 28th October 2011. Under the Terms of Reference nominees were expected to meet for up to six days starting in late October and ending in early March 2012. Instead the first meetings are now expected to start from late February 2012 and end in April when the groups will be asked to report back to Ministry of Education's group manager for ECE.
Ms Parata says she is looking forward to "the practical and workable solutions the advisory groups propose.''
It is not known to what extent the Minister's Brief for the Advisory Groups will allow members to look at critical issues within the early childhood sector and put forward solutions aimed at raising standards in order to help facilitate quality for children. Current issues include the minimum ratio of 5 children under 2-years to 1 teacher, no requirement in mixed-aged centres for qualified teachers to be spread amongst both the infants and older children, no minimum standards requirements for group size, and lifting the regulatable standard for qualified and registered teachers from 50% to 80%. Another issue in the teacher-led part of the ECE sector is that it has a gender-segregated workforce and is unable to model to young children non-discriminatory practices and provide children with contact with educators of both genders.
The input of the working groups into the new "simplified' funding system being developed for the ECE sector would seem to be a necessity also, since funding and funding incentives are used by government as a tool, alongside regulation, to influence consumer choices and use of ECE hours and to influence ECE business provider practices around setting enrolment conditions, parent fees, and providing above minimum standards such as for the employment of qualified staff.
Members of the working groups represent a range of experience and interests, though it's interesting to note that firstly all members are female and no men in ECE are represented, secondly selection was ECE sector and academic based and did not include parents or community members such as children's advocates from outside of ECE management and representation groups, and lastly it includes representatives from the organisations that felt most disadvantaged by the ECE Taskforce Report recommendations (Playcentre and Home-based ECE) and also those groups whose voices were not included as participants in the ECE Taskforce Group (The NZ Childcare Association and NZ Kindergartens Inc). Left out or overlooked again is the teachers' union NZEI Te Riu Roa, Montessori Aotearoa New Zealand, the Rudolf Steiner Federation, and the Christian Early Childhood Education Assn.
In regard to other nominations accepted it is noteworthy that authors from two of the three reports (the 3rd report was an ERO produced one) cited in the Terms of Reference are sitting on the advisory group for ECE quality for children under 2-years. These are Janis Carroll-Lind (an author of the Children's Commission report on the non-parental care and education of infants and toddlers), and Carmen Dalli, Jayne White, and Jean Rockel who undertook writing a review of the literature for the Ministry of Education on quality ECE for under 2-s. This working group is weighted towards academics with four out of eight members coming from an academic background, one service management, and three professional support and development.