ECE proposals welcomed

Early childhood education services in Dunedin have applauded a series of recommendations aimed at improving the quality of early childhood education (ECE) in New Zealand.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said the recommendations were the findings of two advisory groups established in January, one focusing on improving ECE services sector-wide, and one focusing on improving ECE services for under-2s.

She has asked the Ministry of Education to provide advice on the recommendations.

These include providing specialised professional development for all staff working in services licensed for under-2s, establishing an infant and toddler component in ECE teaching degrees and diplomas, reviewing home-based service types, and considering reviewing or renewing the licence process every three years.

The advisory group also recommended regulating teacher-child under-2 ratios, and believed further work was needed to establish appropriate maximum group sizes for children in centre-based services.

Requiring under-2 spaces to have at least 50% qualified staff was recommended, along with requiring teacher-led centre-based services to have 80% registered teachers from July 1, 2013.

It was recommended consideration be given to more flexible funding for children in ECE and how to better support those with special needs and their families.

The ministry was asked to review regulations and licensing criteria against best practice and international criteria such as World Health Organisation requirements for space and room temperature.

It has also been asked to work with the Ministry of Health to support the health of under-2s by monitoring noise levels, physical environment and spread of infectious diseases, and to develop further information about quality-risk factors.

Ms Parata said she planned to outline the next steps for the recommendations in August.

Dunedin Community Childcare Association director Jo Ellis said the ECE sector was united about the drive to improve quality, and the recommendations from the advisory groups reflected the sector's priorities.

"I'm pleased with the result. It gives us a very clear direction for the way forward."

Dunedin Kindergartens general manager Christine Gale applauded the recommendations and believed they would add value to early childhood education.

However, she hoped, in the context of last week's Budget announcements, that their implementation could be properly funded.

"They now have to be resourced to a level where that can happen.

"Times are financially tight for the education sector.

"It would be nice to know where the money will come from."



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