A couple of cool little kids went through a gate in their centre's playground and successfully crossed a four-lane road to go to a shopping centre where they were noticed in the car-park.

The children who 'escaped' knew when no one watching them at the centre. While they should not have done this and the outcome could have been very bad. 

fencing children in

The pair showed amazing skills that teachers and parents hope for in their children: collaborative planning, problem-solving, crossing a road safely, curiosity, and independent thinking. 

The centre owners think that one must have unlatched the ground bolts to the gate while the other child got a leg-up on the perspex to reach the two bolts at the top.

The children have demonstrated for ERO and others that their Palmerston North, privately-run centre, is meeting (for them) all the Te Whāriki strands of:

  • Whakamana – The early childhood curriculum empowers the child to learn and grow.
  • Kotahitanga – The early childhood curriculum reflects the holistic way children learn and grow.
  • Whānau Tangata – The wider world of family and community is an integral part of the early childhood curriculum.
  • Ngā Hononga – Children learn through responsive and reciprocal relationships with people, places, and things.


But what happened was potentially very dangerous. 

It is incidents like this that should help us to think about what the real problem is -  it is not the children and it is not wholly about security at the centre. While some fences and gates will keep some children in if a child wants to escape and has the abilities to do so then a child may.

Our early learning and childcare services should be places where children want to be - and not prisons. It would be unfortunate if the Ministry of Education, the centre concerned, and other ECE services responded by tightening security any further than it already is to try to provide a solution to keeping the 'inmates' in.  

Attention should be put on:

  1. improving regulations to ensure small group sizes and good adult-child ratios;  
  2. ensuring every adult responsible for children in an ECE service has well-developed supervision skills - teacher training and ongoing feedback on supervision skills is important; and 
  3. enabling the adults to be present for the children and be involved in their learning as well as their care and not be caught up in other tasks such as administration and cleaning when they are on child-contact time.

In early childhood services the best educators respect children and see children as competent learners and individual thinkers.

Fencing children in doesn't show respect - in the words of a parent:

With my child enjoying the sandpit I asked the centre manager about the very low fence and she said the children understood not to go over. In fact, car tyres had been placed by the fence to help lift the children higher to get a better view of the trains going past. This is one of the wonderful ways that the centre had of not making children feel they were fenced in or imprisoned. I could see children were really respected at this centre and seen to be sensible and competent to listen and understand what to do.


Read More

Other cases of children escaping from, or being left alone at, an early childhood service 

The 3 supervision skills adults need to keep children safe in ECE services 

Some reactions

Tess 2015-08-04
In my current situation, I was reading this article yesterday and it actually made me laugh. Well written! My ECE team