We are very fortunate to be a mixed aged centre – but what are the benefits for our children?
Extract from the New Zealand Herald 18 Dec, 2017
Childcare workers speak out against ‘factory farming’ of children in large centres
Child Forum has expressed longstanding concerns about commercial pressures affecting the standards of care in early childhood education (ECE), but chief executive Dr Sarah Alexander said the survey was open to anyone working in the sector.
Respondents were asked: “Hypothetically, if you have or had your own children, would you be happy to enrol them at the service where you work or at a comparable centre. Those who would not be happy to place their own children at the centres they worked in were concerned about children’s safety, staff stress, bullying, lack of staff time to develop relationships with the children, and minimal hours of non-contact time to record children’s development and plan activities.
Staff in larger centres were much less likely to be willing to place their own children in the centres they worked in – only 41 per cent of people working in centres with more than 100 children, compared with 86 per cent of those working in centres with below 30 children.
Alexander said maximum early childhood rolls were lifted from 50 to 150 in 2011.
“The research shows that the smaller you are, the more likely you are to have interactions flowing between teachers and children, and children forming friendships,” she said. She said the Ministry of Education should “actively support centres to have optimal instead of maximum numbers of children”.
She also recommended that parents should spend time in several centres before deciding where to send their children. “They should see if they themselves are comfortable to stay there for the length of time that they would like their child to stay,” she said. “How do they find the noise level? The busyness? Do they feel relaxed? Are they seeing any issues or problems that concern them?”
Ministry of Education deputy secretary Katrina Casey said NZ early childhood education standards were “among the highest in the world” and centres were monitored “regularly”. National Party early childhood spokeswoman Sarah Dowie said the feedback she had received was that “our focus needs to continue to lift the quality of ECE”.