Studies into child care spark hope

Anne Meade.
Anne Meade.
It is hoped new research into the benefits of early childhood education centres with 100% qualified teachers will be used to direct the Government's future education policy and teacher training.

The research was launched at the New Zealand Childcare Association (NZCA) Conference, which concluded in Dunedin yesterday.

Research project co-ordinator and independent education consultant Anne Meade said teachers' work was studied at 10 randomly selected early childhood education centres.

In half of the centres, all teachers held a three-year early childhood education teaching qualification, and the other half contained between 50% and 79% of qualified teachers.

The study showed marked differences in children's experiences when all of their teachers were qualified, Dr Meade said.

Children in "100% qualified" centres were more likely to have conversations with teachers, to partake in shared sustained thinking with teachers and to engage in complex play, she said.

These activities were thought to be predictive of later school achievement, she said.

The profile of qualifications among teaching staff in case-study centres affected not only the teaching and learning of children specifically, but also the staff's capacity to engage with parents.

Dr Meade said teachers in 100% centres were more intentional about children's learning, evidenced through planning, talking to parents and exchanging information about child learning.

The study was carried out during 2011 after the Government's removal of the 100% qualified teacher funding band.

NZCA was particularly interested in capturing the features of 100% qualified services while they existed.

Dr Meade hoped the research would be used by colleges of education to raise "good practice" among early childhood education teachers.

It was also hoped the research would provide incentive for the Government to "push policy" to about 80% qualified teachers.

At present, the Government's requirement is for 50% of teachers at centres to be qualified.

Recent Ministry of Education reports show 69% of early childhood education teachers are qualified, and 86% of services are in the "80% qualified staff or above" funding bracket.

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