Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) welcomes the move by the Ministry of Education towards more professional in-home early childhood care and education (ECCE), ensuring all children in ECCE environments are accessing high quality, culturally relevant, consistent and safe educational opportunities.
Dr Jenny Ritchie, Associate Professor in the School of Education at Victoria University of Wellington, and spokesperson for CPAG agrees there is a need for qualifications for this “largely overlooked but burgeoning early childhood workforce”, considering the growing demand. But quality provision can be assured only by effective resourcing, and to date the ECCE sector has suffered chronic underfunding.
“We agree with NZEI that this is an important and overdue move, and that alongside the requirement for qualified educators, the Government must ramp up its funding to ensure that the sector is adequately resourced to provide high quality, culturally responsive services for all children, especially those affected by disadvantage, disability or who may have special learning needs,” says Dr Ritchie.
“It is vital that ERO is resourced to be able to conduct appropriate evaluations of these services. Home-based carers should be supported to continue their learning beyond the initial level four qualification, to gain a degree level qualification. They should also be linked into community hubs and provided with much greater support than a one hour per month visit from their agency.”
CPAG has been concerned that previous policy seriously undermined the value of parents providing care for their children in their early years.
“Many beneficiary families pressured to put their children into care may have opted for home-based services with an unqualified carer, as this may have been local and accessible. However, this means that their child was then being cared for by someone other than their parent, for no particular benefit and quite possibly to the child’s detriment,” says Dr Ritchie.
Dr Andrew Gibbons of AUT, also supports the move to qualified in-home carers. This aligns with the draft Early Learning Strategic Plan, which aims to ensure that all families/whānau have access to high quality ECCE provision which is responsive to diverse learning needs and cultural backgrounds.
“Its essential the opportunity is not missed to re-evaluate current teacher education to build more innovative qualification pathways, which take seriously the integration of well-being and education within home and centre settings, including looking at how different cultural and philosophical strategies can enhance learning and well-being,” says Dr Gibbons.
Dr Gibbons also hopes that more quality in-home services will reduce the burden on centres with waiting lists, and may provide families/whānau with local options that do not require them to travel extensively.