Choosing an early childhood education service is a very important decision and you may not always find the right one for your child straight away.
Mother of 5 and New Zealand’s early childhood expert Dr Alexander says that for her:
a good service is one in which I know my child will be happy, learning, safe, healthy, provided with a great environment for friendships, play and relaxation. When I look at the adults or teachers what I look for is enthusiasm, warmth, energy, genuine interest in my child and my child’s world, ability to connect at a personal level with my child, and a knack of knowing just what to say and do at the right moment to promote my child’s learning.
As a parent, you need to feel comfortable with your choice and that your child will feel secure and be well looked after at the service you pick. To ensure this happens, it is important to do some thorough research before making your final decision, but many parents do not know as much about their early childhood service as perhaps they should.
A Canadian study published in May 2013 found that many parents did not know what their children were doing during their time in early childhood education, nor did they know much about the training and background of the staff.
While the majority of parents reported knowing something about the philosophy of their chosen early childhood service, most only had information through written statements provided by the centre. Less than half the parents in the study knew the education background of their child's teacher.
Lead researcher Nina Howe said it was important for parents to find out about their child's early childhood service. No one buys a car without doing some homework, so why don't parents do some homework when selecting childcare?
What should a parent research then?
Formally trained and registered teachers provide a better quality of education for children who are within large group centre-based care.
Pay particular attention to things such as how the children are viewed and treated, how your child reacts to being at the service, what sorts of activities are offered, and if you do not stay with your child at a centre then its important that the staff are qualified teachers.
As the parent reviews published on the My ECE website show even among a small number of services there is a wide variation in practices and quality (click here to read the reviews). It is therefore imperative that you research first.
Don't enrol your child at the first centre you come across. Make sure you visit several to see the differences between services.
Take care not to select a service only on the basis of practical considerations such as being close to home or to your work-place. While convenience and cost can play a part in your choice, the philosophy, feel of the service, the size of the group, the behaviour and attitudes of the adults and other children, and teaching styles should be paramount when making your decision.
Do ask questions about the philosophy, daily structure or programme, and the background of staff or adults who will be caring for your child before you decide whether to enrol, and take the opportunity to watch the teachers and service in action if you can.
My ECE have published a helpful Guide for parents by Dr Alexander. We are pleased to be able to provide free copies of this to parents.