Government glosses over Early Childhood Education failures



Last week the Minister of Justice, Hon. Judith Collins, presented New Zealand’s Second Universal Periodic Review to the Human Rights Council of the UN General Assembly.  What is intriguing are the key priorities identified by this National Government in its written report.  They are:

  • settling Treaty claims;
  • improving the protection of children against neglect and abuse;
  • reducing violence within families and it’s impact on women and children;
  • on-going implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities;
  • advancing the Constitutional Review process;  and
  • ensuring human rights impacts of the Canterbury Earthquakes are accounted for in rebuild decisions.

The last Review was done in 2009 and attracted 56 recommendations.  This latest report attracted 155 recommendations from member countries. In the course of the interactive dialogue the Minister stated that addressing child poverty was also a key priority for the Government.  This was not a priority identified in the written report but one that became a key priority in response to questioning from other countries.  In that dialogue poverty in New Zealand was defined as an “exclusion from a minimum acceptable way of life in one’s own society because of a lack of adequate resources.”  It is interesting to note that the Prime Minister stated in the House on 29 January that “the way that poverty is defined in New Zealand is 60 percent of the average wage”.  24 of the 155 recommendations specifically refer to addressing child poverty and particularly in respect of Maori and Pacific children.  Emphasis is placed on addressing inequalities in respect of Maori and Pacific communities, not the least in the area of education.

While ECE provision does not make it into the written report, in the interactive dialogue the Minister  stated that “New Zealand children had access to free education, health care, and, where necessary, welfare for their parents.”   The Committee response also includes, within that context, the statement made that “[t]he Government was also focused on children’s engagement and success in education, particularly increasing participation by vulnerable children in early childhood education.”

The Prime Minister bandied around figures in the House last week stating “we now have a 96 percent participation rate in early childhood education.”  But that is not the case for vulnerable children.  It is not the case for Maori children.  It is not the case for Pasifika children.  And it is not the case for children living in the most deprived areas.

The reality for an electorate like mine is that the market does not provide affordable, accessible and acceptable ECE services.  ECE provision changed considerably during the 1990s and by 1999 half of all education and care centres were privately owned as well as a quarter of all home based care.  ECE should be part of a public education system.  It should not be left to the market under some assumption that the market will respond appropriately to community need and ensure quality ECE provision. Leaving it to the market increases inequalities.  In Manurewa we have new entrant classes where only 27% of children have had some form of ECE.  My electorate is one that demonstrates the consequences of what happens when early childhood education service provision and Government funding provides a business opportunity.  Manurewa is not an area that attracts commercial providers to ensure all parents have the choice of quality and appropriate ECE provision.  And so it is an area that has significant under-provision of quality ECE services that manifests itself when a child turns 5 and starts school without any ECE.  The figures are clear and we need to find ways to address this inequality.

One way to address the issue would be to allow primary schools, that were willing and have the resources, to offer the choice of ECE classes and to be an ECE provider in areas where there is under-provision.  A School Board could apply for authorisation and that would constitute its licence and it would deliver the curriculum that is delivered by all licensed providers.  I know that there are schools in my electorate that would welcome the opportunity to give children that will enrol in their primary schools the opportunity to have had quality ECE before heading into their school years.  And for parents with more than one child similar in age it provides ECE within their school community and to have pre-school and school age children at the same place would be easier for parents.  And as we all know quality ECE will give every child a start in the right direction not only in terms of education but as part of a community.

It is a simple way in which participation in early childhood education can take place within the public education system where the community wants it and where there is under-provision of ECE services either in terms of accessibility or affordability.  It would provide a viable option for Manurewa and other similar areas and for those in remote areas.

TDB Recommends

Practical solutions like this can help address issues of inequality and empower our communities and families and give them choices about their children’s education experience. It would also ensure resources are distributed where they are needed the most.


  1. “the market does not provide affordable, accessible and acceptable ECE services.”

    Sorry Louisa, but like the rest of your piece this is simply not true.

    I am closely involved in the ECE sector and I can tell you that despite our best efforts, Maori and Pacifica people are simply not that interested in ECE. One if the centres I’m involved in is on the cusp of both a decile 2 area and a decile 8 area. With the help of the MOE we have been targeting M&P families, including providing transport, employing M&P teachers, and promotion of the free 20 hours provided by the Govt. The results were incredibly disappointing, with most families either happy to remain within language nests, or simply not motivated to get their children involved. The MOE have been actively working to increase the participation of M&P children in ECE, and private centres have been very much a part of that drive, but at the end of the day you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

    • Also, if M&P families will not attend private ECE centres, when the service is free and caters specifically to their needs, why would they attend one in a public school?

    • with all due respect Intrinsic, I’ve seen some of your comments here and they do border on the redneck, if you are as involved in ECE sector as you claim, and you hold the beliefs you do, I can see why many Maori and Pacific Island families would want nothing to do with you.

      • Kia ora. The terms I used were affordable, accessible and acceptable. All children have the right to a free education and this post is about meeting a community demand through Boards of Trustees, families and the wider community. In that regard it seems that you miss the relevance of “acceptability”, IntrinsicValue. A community response within the school context has a greater chance of addressing cultural and linguistic needs and the relationship with parents and families and to co-ordinate other services, such as the B4 school check. This is about meeting the needs of those who currently arrive at school without any ECE and facilitating a solution that reduces that occurrence. You may see your efforts as “best” from your perspective but my proposal is about accepting the right for all children to ECE respecting parental choice and provision of suitable services for Maori and Pasifika children. That requires a public or community response not a market or commercial response that is largely driven by different factors.

        • “The terms I used were affordable, accessible and acceptable.”

          The centre’s I am involved in:

          > offer 20 free hours, do not charge fees above the subsidy for those hours, and offer fees that match the decile and socio economic profile of the communities they serve.
          > Are all accessible, in all of the various ways that term can be construed, including from the point of view of transport, and meeting the needs of people with disabilities.
          > We have specifically targeted M&P families in a number of ways, developed by consultation with the ministry and local M&P leaders.

          Louisa with all due respect, I think this is an area you just don’t understand that well. The EC sector is well served by both public and private sector providers. From my experience the MOE is doing a very good job at encouraging greater participation from M&P, but there has to be a will to be involved.

          • Kia ora ano. The position and policy I have posted about has been developed following engagement with principals, teachers and Boards of Trustees in my electorate. I am committed to community development and ensuring parents and families are engaged in the education of their children. Your initial response and conclusion that “Maori and Pacifica people are simply not interested in ECE” indicates a lack of knowledge or experience of responding to community need. This is a fundamental issue that needs to be addressed – it is not about a business model aimed at “finding kids” to offer services that you think they should be grateful for. Your motivation as set out is not about what the community wants. That is understandable given that community wishes and well-being is generally outside the concerns of commercial operations. Manurewa is not well served by ECE providers. There is under-provision in terms of all four matters identified by the Human Rights Commission in accordance with UNECOSOC on the right to education – availability, accessibility, acceptability and adaptability. This is about giving kids a start and to do that we need community based provision that reflects the community it serves.

            • Louisa what I am relating is based on a considerable depth of experience at the coalface. This includes a very real knowledge of what our communities ‘want’. In fact the best way for a centre to know what it’s communities want is to have the very business model you seem to dislike. Because it is the business imperative that drives the need to serve it’s community to attract customers. The public model has no such imperative. The ‘build it and they will come’ ideology you seem to espouse is simply unproven. Rather than speaking to teachers, principals and boards of trustees, speak to M&P families and you’ll get a much clearer picture.

      • Martin that is a personal attack, not an argument. For the record, I don’t teach EC, I m involved in the Governance arena. Now try refuting what I have said with facts.

        • It’s Martyn, not a personal attack, a valid observation. You are exceptionally racist and redneck with many of your opinions, you highlight your involvement in ECE as an expert in discussing this and complain Maori and PI parents aren’t interested, pointing out that your mindset may be part of the problems is hardly a personal attack.

          • Your personal attacks continue. I am neither racist nor redkneck. My views are pretty much mainstream. My comments are based on my 20 years experience in Governance within the EC sector. No doubt your anti private enterprise bias is not permitting you to consider any alternative opinion.

            • Further to that…can you provide one post of mine that contained a single racist remark? Just one.

              For the sake of clarity, here is the Oxford definition of Racism:

              “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races”

            • Even if your right wing and racist views were “mainstream” doesn’t make it correct, IV.

              Once upon a time it was “mainstream” to turn a blind eye to drunk driving; domestic violence; excusing rape because of a woman’s clothing; etc.

              Those attitudes were forced to change.

              Justifying racist views as “mainstream” is not an answer – it’s part of the problem.

            • … Hmmmmm…

              When you say you have “20 years experience in Governance within the EC sector” – what, precisely, do you mean by that, IV?

              If you own (or part own, or have an interest in) a private early childhood centre, then that will naturally colour your views.

              Just as you claimed earlier to be a landlord, owning rental properties. (Busy, aren’t you? And yet you have so much time to spend on this blog…?)

              • 1. Yes I am a landlord. That part of my life is managed primarily by a letting agency, although on occasion I get involved in my tenants lives when they need help.
                2. I have no financial interest in any EC centre and never have had. My involvement began 20 years ago when, as treasurer of a church in my local community, I was on the establishment committee for a new centre nearby. I have over the subsequent years used my experience to assist a range of community based centres. Finally, I do this work entirely voluntarily. I have never taken a cent for the time I give to these organisations, and I cannot see a time when I ever will.

                Still think this may colour my views, Frank?

  2. Intrinsicvalue – your comments reveal some worrying attitudes, eg:-
    “despite our best efforts, Maori and Pacifica (sic) people are simply not that interested in ECE.” This is an extraordinarily presumptuous and arrogant statement which suggests why you are unsuccessful in enrolling Pasifika and Maori families. Don’t forget that Maori and many Pasifika families created an entire early childhood sector (out of nothing) precisely because of the kind of attitudes you betray. Indeed your comment that your failure to recruit is because: “most families (are) happy to remain within language nests,” illustrates your lack of comprehension of the communities you seek to influence.
    I too work in early childhood. I go into successful multicultural centres all the time. Their model is different from the ‘business model’ you espouse.
    You don’t name your organisation but I have a fair idea, from what you say, who you represent. Touting ’20 hours free’ as a some sort of public mindedness on the part of your organisation is nonsense when Government funds it.
    It is hardly surprising that Mum’s are less than excited by your offer of vans to cart their small children across town to be looked after by strangers – even if they are ‘M&P’ as you assert.
    Would you like to tell us what is the percentage of qualified staff in your centres – and of those who are trained – what is the average number of years of experience?
    I am not anti-private sector provision of early childhood as you try to label those who have argued against you in this thread. I’ve seen many brilliant private providers – but never operating from the business model you espouse.

    • “This is an extraordinarily presumptuous and arrogant statement…”
      No, it is exactly my experience. How can it be either presumptuous or arrogant if I have lived it?

      “Don’t forget that Maori and many Pasifika families created an entire early childhood sector (out of nothing) precisely because of the kind of attitudes you betray. ”
      No they didn’t. Language nests were established to immerse children in a particular language as a way of preserving that language.

      “You don’t name your organisation but I have a fair idea, from what you say, who you represent.”
      No you don’t have any idea. I don’t work for any organisation, my work is done for a range of privately operated centres, not under any singular umbrella.

      “Would you like to tell us what is the percentage of qualified staff in your centres – and of those who are trained – what is the average number of years of experience?”
      I only work with centre’s with 100% qualified teachers. Experience ranges, naturally, but the majority of the staff in the centres I work with have in excess of 10 years experience.

      You made some assumptions about my work that were very, very wrong. I’m happy to debate on the issues, but if all you have are cliche’s and your personal prejudices you’ll not go far.

  3. @ IV:

    “You made some assumptions about my work that were very, very wrong. I’m happy to debate on the issues, but if all you have are cliche’s and your personal prejudices you’ll not go far. ”


    As opposed to your own style of evasiveness; parroting cliches; resorting to anecdotal “stories” rather than factual data; and blind prejudice?!

    Oh lordy… I nearly spat my coffee when I read that… LMAO!! 😀

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