Parents are being urged to reduce the gamble with the quality of their child’s care by being more discerning with their choice of early childhood education centres.
A leading expert in quality early childhood education, Dr Sarah Alexander says that as parents return to work after having a baby and need childcare or seek an early start to their child’s education they must do their home-work first and go for a service that has high standards of practice and ethics.
“Relying on strangers to take good care of their toddler is a gamble that thousands of families take.
“Some ECE services tick more boxes for quality and are more focused on excellence than others,” Dr Alexander says.
In many services where quality is poor, the Education Review Office has previously reported that managers and educators may believe their service is operating well.
"External monitoring and quality assurance is light in the early childhood education industry that is now part of our country’s infrastructure - as vital as the health system, roads, and airports.”
While early childhood services must meet minimum standards for staffing and equipment, among other things, services are not regularly inspected by the Ministry of Education. After a service is licensed the Ministry of Education is unlikely to ever visit it again to check if it remains in full compliance with regulations. Inspections usually occur only after a service comes to its notice because of a serious incident, compliant, or the Education Review Office says it thinks its not operating safely for children.
Parents are not informed about the history and any problems with a service as details of any inspections and the outcomes of investigations into any complaints are not made public by the Ministry.
For many children ERO reviewers may not visit their service while they are attending as ERO can stretch its review timeline out to 4 years (and even 5 years!), Dr Alexander says.
So how is it possible to know that a child is in the best of hands?
To assist parents with knowledge of the best early childhood services, MyECE.org.nz,
(a) invites users to rate and review their service
(b) provides important details about services, such as on staffing
(c) annually publishes the names of services that have been caught breaching standards, and
(d) identifies ECE services of excellence.
Services must rate highly in having features important for quality for children, support the code of the Rights of Children in ECE, support the Code of Ethical Conduct for ECE services, have consistently high positive reviews from parents over the past year, and overall demonstrate a commitment to striving for excellence. Nominations are welcomed.
“We are all keen to see every child enjoy the best early childcare and education and it is encouraging for the sector when services are acknowledged for doing well”, says Dr Alexander.