Here is the not-so-secret formula for quality early childhood education and childcare.
The formula is evidence-based and developed from decades of research. Fortunately, the formula is achievable by any early childhood service and is not complicated. As Dr Sarah Alexander said, we would expect all early childhood services in NZ/Aotearoa to be showing these ingredients of quality.
Wonderful, truly remarkable quality early childhood education (ECE) is produced when the following ingredients of quality are present and come together.
- The ECE service doesn’t feel over-crowded, and everyone knows everyone’s name.
- You can hear laughter and see that being at the service is enjoyable for everyone.
- Diversity is embraced and the service has an inclusive culture (e.g., It includes men in its teaching staff. Children with disabilities are included in all aspects of the programme).
- Parents and family members can visit and participate anytime they wish.
- Opportunities are provided for families to be involved in the curriculum and events.
- Interest is shown in children’s home activities and learning, and family views on care are respected.
- Children’s individual needs are known and meet.
- There is ample play space both inside and outdoors for the number and ages of children, with a good variety of play areas and materials (e.g., sandpit, puppets, musical instruments, cooking, and gardening).
- There is always something on offer for the children to do, so more choices and less down-time (not passive watching, aimless wandering, or screen time).
- Children’s personal privacy is respected, such as when using the toilet.
- High attention is given to keeping children safe, and to hand-washing and hygiene.
- The adults/ teaching staff:
- are trained and qualified in early childhood education;
- draw on research-based evidence and expert advice to reflect on what they do and enhance their teaching and support of children and families; and
- have adequate sick and holiday leave and are well paid (at least at the same level of pay as schoolteachers with equivalent qualifications and experience).
Quality early childhood education is not a luxury, but a basic necessity given the importance of the early years in a child’s development and the amount of time that so many of our children spend in care from a very young age. May it be quality that is remarkable – quality that goes beyond expectations to delight parents and be truly good for children in every way.Dr Sarah Alexander (1997)