The Right to an Early Childhood Education

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Dear My ECE, does my child have a right to an early childhood education? I have been told by the agency there is no longer a place for my happily settled child as his educator is taking on another client.

I’m not happy to be faced with sorting out work and new childcare options and do not feel that it is fair to put our family through is. Can my part-time child be moved to make room for a full-time one and what can I do about this? 

Who has the right to

In NZ/Aotearoa children under the age of 5 years do not have a right to education (only children aged 5 to 16 have a right to enrol at their local school and a place is guaranteed).

So, see if there is another legal avenue you could take. Check the enrolment form or other contract of agreement for your child to attend. Should the service have agreed for your child to attend hours that are specified, and it is not agreed that this be a temporary arrangement until the place can be filled by a full-time child enrolment, then the service may be acting in breach of contract. Contact your lawyer or community law office to discuss.

You may wish to inform the Ministry of Education and make a complaint against the service. This will alert the Ministry of Education to the unsatisfactory actions of the agency/service provider, whom it funds.

In regard to home-based care, parents whose educator can no longer care for their child should be offered another educator by the service provider or help to find a new childcare place. 

Below are some comments from educators and service providers. The comments indicate that it is not common practice to withdraw the place of a part-time child and that there are home-based educators and organisations/service providers who put the needs of the child first.

I have never done this as I feel it’s better not to take on part-time children under this situation. They form a close bond with us so careful consideration should be made before starting care with a child. (Educator)

Whilst having full time children in care is a desirable situation I would never agree to this happening. I personally commit myself to being available for any child I take on for as long as they need care with me regardless of their enrolled hours. I agree that strong attachments are formed with children and their families. Also, for some children where change and upheaval are a factor in their lives, I like to know that my home-based environment can be the one constant thing in their lives. So, to move them would go against my values. I would fill the part-time position with another part-timer. (Educator)

Most educators need a steady income so I recommend that when educators take on a part-time child, they make it clear to the parent at the time that if a full-time child’s position comes up the full-timer will take preference over the part-timer. The parent can then make an informed decision whether to start part-time or not. (Home-based Service Provider)

Children and families build strong attachment with their educator, and I can’t imagine any of our educators giving up a part-timer for a full-timer! As an owner of a home-based agency and visiting teacher I wouldn’t support educators in this either. Most of our children are part-timers anyway and educators fill their gaps with part-timers, i.e., they may have 11 children in care over the week to fill 4 full-time spaces. I understand that it is the educator’s livelihood but ethically and morally it’s questionable and certainly not an example of best practice!!! (Home-based service provider)

See also: The Code of Children’s Rights in Early Childhood Education

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