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 service that there is no longer a place for my happily settled child as another child is enrolling and needs longer hours.

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 happily settled part-time child on 20 Hours ECE funding be moved to make room for a full-time one?

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).

Check is 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 – though as this is an ethical matter and not related to regulations it is unlikely the Ministry will question the service provider.

In regard to centres, they should not do a U-turn on a child’s enrolment when a higher fee earning child comes along. Service providers can choose to fill the hours that a part-time child does not use by offering these hours to a second part-time child or give teaching staff who are additional to the ratio time to have non-contact time.

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 some find the practice of putting money ahead of children appalling.

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. (Home-based 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. (Home-based Educator)

Children and families build strong attachment with their teachers, and I can’t imagine our centre would give up a part-timer for a full-timer! As an owner I wouldn’t support this.

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

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