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Does the Quality of the ECE Service Matter?

The answer to this question is yes it does matter. By choosing an ECE service that is high-quality you are ensuing your child gets the best possible start to their education. Four key indicators of quality that international research has shown to have a significant influence on child outcomes are as follows.

Group size: There should be no more than 20 to 25 children per group and no more than 8 under 2-year-olds if the under 2s are cared for separately. (Note that in NZ there is no restriction on class or group size in centres and centre licences can be for up to 150 children (0 – 5 years) or 75 children under 2 years, at any one time.)

Staff training and education: When leaving your child in the care of others, these people should have received the relevant training. ECE qualified teachers have undertaken supervised practice in ECE settings. They have studied such things as: child development; theories of early learning; ECE curriculum; assessment of infant and toddler learning; engaging with parents; early language acquisition; supporting positive pro-social behaviours; team-teaching; and ECE rules and regulations. So, ask the ECE service which of its teaching staff are qualified in ECE – in case some, or all, of the ‘teachers’ are not.  

Adult:child ratios: Young children are dependent on adults for support. Therefore, there should be at least 1 adult to every 3 or 4 children under 2 years, and at least 1 adult to every 6 children aged 2 to 3 years. (Note that in NZ the legal requirement for education and care centres is 1 adult to every 10 children aged 2 years and older with 1 adult for the first 6 children, and 1 adult to every 5 children under 2 years of age.)

A stable staff: Staff stability is about whether children can be sure of having the same teacher or educator caring for them from one day to the next. It takes time for a new teacher to really get to know a child and provide optimal teaching and learning for the child. Services with low staff turnover (high teacher retention rates) pay their teachers well and provide a safe and happy workplace.


Is More Time in ECE Better for Children than Less?

There’s a sweet spot for weekly ECE attendance of between about 12 and 30 hours a week – less than that and children do not get full educative benefit while more than that brings risks. Maximum educative gains are usually received at about 15 hours.  

Another way to look at this would be that the first one or maybe two scoops of ice-cream give great enjoyment on a hot summer day. Once you are up to three or more the enjoyment is probably maxed out. If you continue having more then you are missing the benefits of fruit and veges for your calorie intake.

One risk that comes with children being in ECE for long hours is that parents have less opportunity to learn how to parent and be confident in their parenting.