Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas from the ELP team

Merry Christmas
Ki a tatou iwi whanui mātauranga
To our community of learners
Kua tae ākuanei ki te wā Kirihimete
Christmas is here.
Nō reira, ka mihi o te Kirihimete me te tau hou ki a koutou katoa
Therefore, Christmas and New Year greetings to you all.
Kia harikoa, kia marino, kia rangimarie i roto i tō whare i roto i tēnei wā
Let there be happiness, calm and peace in your house at this time.
Ka mihi, ka mihi, ka mihi ki a koutou katoa.
Greetings to you all.

Robyn, Wendy, Jo
Alison, Lorraine, Kathryn
Annika and Marie

Monday, December 6, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

My Christmas tree does not have a ‘theme’ as such. Not one that might be advocated in the house and garden type women’s magazines. Though, when I think about it the theme for my Tree is unique and could be referred to as the - “Brownie, Playcentre, School children, Russia, Germany, Aunty Anna with Red, Gold, Green and Blue Theme”. Because it is just that. As I put up the Christmas Tree and decorated it yesterday I had many opportunities to revisit times and people past. It is pure joy to me as I greet each and everyone of my old friends, the decorations.

There are the lights - new lights admittedly - but to mind sprang our very first Christmas tree lights (1962) bought by my Nan and Pop. A gift to us children for our tree. Coloured lights that brought magic and love with them. A chance now to meet up with Nan and Pop again, reflect on their lives and the hardships they endured for their love. Their sense of right and justice. Their resilience. The love they always showed in the ways they cared for me. The things I learnt from them.

There is the now tatty yellow gnome, a gift from my Aunty Anna. A wonderful serene women who loved me just because I am me. She was always welcoming. She was never fazed by all seven of us unkempt and unruly children walking up the path to her front door unannounced. Warm scones were on the table very soon after our arrival.

There are the hand sewn hearts made by my Brownie daughters and the dried white painted pinecone, made by my Playcentre son. Memories and remembering flood in of my own small children and me as a young woman, always trying to do what I knew to be best for them. My life of learning to mother through our many ages and stages.

There are the baubles purchased while traveling. The nesting dolls from Russia a reminder of my resilient self, and my ability to pick myself up, and to recover and discover joy and excitement in the unknown. Memories of the Russian man who smiled at us and said “Welcome to Russia” when I needed it most.

The angels from Germany who give back to me memories of travel with wonderful, kind and loving friends. My angels. Remembering great places and great people. Reminding of times where bravery, courage and resourcefulness were paramount. Memories of times when trying new things brought challenge, excitement and pleasure.

And now... new this year there are some dough ceramic decorations made at Playcentre by my grandchildren and daughter. Promise of Christmases to come and more possible learner selves to be found.

And so... I reflect on Children’s Portfolios and the learning stories we write. I am reminded of the power of the photos and the stories we tell, and how revisiting these builds identity as ‘learner’ and human being. They are just like my Christmas Tree decorations. They are the prompts for remembering and reflecting on me and the people, places, things and times in my life.

The Christmas decorations offer me opportunities to visit with my super-learning heroes and to continue to form the super-learning hero inside of me.

I have this wonder-filled time for revisiting every year and then I get to put the decorations safely in their boxes only to look forward to our meeting again in twelve months time. The children you work with can re-visit their Portfolios any-time and will more than likely do so during the rest of their lives. If not in the tangible form then inside of themselves.

I hope there is a special little something under your tree this year!! Better still... I hope there is something special on your tree this year. A special little something that provokes in you the memories of people, places things and time.

Maybe there is even a little someone around who wants to be in-charge of lighting!!! I guess that’s another story.

Best wishes to you all for a safe and memory filled Christmas Season,


Friday, December 3, 2010


Hard to believe that so many families on the West Coast will be without their loved ones this Christmas.
Whilst advertisers compel us to spend up large and buy carpet, lounge suits, kettles and playstations; there are many who will be having a very different Christmas. 
Nothing can possibly be more precious than having time with those you love. Perhaps if we hold our loved ones close to our hearts during this time before Christmas; then some of the frenzy that can be overwhelming might wash over us and we may indeed find peace and joy. My heart goes out to families who will no longer have those they love come home for Christmas. It is definitely time to slow down, enjoy the moments and enjoy the spirit of Christmas. 

From Alison

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

ECE Taskforce

Everyone will be well aware that the ECE Taskforce is now underway. It is vital that everyone in ECE in this country (ECE sector, parents and whanau) get involved. Please read the Update, print it off and share with others. The link to this Update is on our website in the ELP news section.

Register to receive regular updates from the ECE Taskforce by emailing ece.taskforce@minedu.govt.nz
You can also get further support and information from the NZEI website on issues surrounding the Taskforce at www.nzei.org.nz

The Taskforce report is due to Government in March 2011. It is a very short timeframe. All submissions will close on the 31st January 2011. Take action now.

Monday, November 22, 2010

New blog and great books

Kia Ora,

Some news from the ELP team: 

Wendy Lee has just started a new blog which you can read here.
Wendy has decided to build a personal blog to share a little of her family and beyond. I can already see lots of dress-up pictures coming up and maybe also an explanation for Wendy's passion for mermaids...

We have also been busy working on our website and added a list of books we highly recommend reading to our resource section which you can access here. We have sorted them  into 9 categories ('Art/Creativity', ' Education and Care of Children under 2 Years', 'Environments', 'Leadership and Organisational Culture', 'Learning and Teaching', 'Literacy', 'Māori', 'Literacy' and 'Social Competence') to help you find the books and topics you are looking for.

The list is by no means complete and reflects our personal preferences. Yet, much of our work is based on or influenced by these books and they will serve as a great source of inspiration if you would like to learn more about some of these topics.

You can purchase these books by clicking on the image of the book on this site and will then be re-directed to Fishpond.co.nz or amazon.com. 

All profits gained from books purchased via the ELP website will be donated to the ECE Leadership Trust. This Trust is set up specifically to support teachers attending conferences and any other professional development.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thoughts from Lorraine Sands

Teachers looking ‘outside in’ to infant and toddler settings sometimes wonder why the teachers looking ‘inside out’ talk about these very young children in such passionate, emotional ways. To outsiders it is somewhat incomprehensible that adults could be so totally engaged with children who seemingly have limited communication. Yet infant and toddler teachers know at a ‘bone marrow level’ just how capable our very youngest children are at gently squeezing hearts as they so powerfully connect to the adults who work with and alongside them. It is certainly true that infants and toddlers are growing their abilities with oral language and this is often the stumbling block for those teachers who love verbal engagements with older children. What captures the hearts and minds of early years teachers is the incomprehensibly connected ‘thousand languages’ that infants and toddlers use to fill the hearts of adults around them. They are wired this way and adults who take the time to get to know them, begin to realise the amazing learning that happens in those first years. This is not in an abstract theoretical way but deeply tuned in, enabling teachers to relationally engage, so those brain neurons build the thousands of pathways that are the hallmark of growing our intelligence. 
I have been fortunate in the last few weeks to meet a number of these passionately involved teachers at our infant and toddler cluster days. We are on a journey together to research wise practice. Each team of teachers are considering a narrative research question that will require introspection. We want to figure out what wise practice looks like in a variety of settings, gathering documentation along the way that will offer others a window into the intricate strategies involved. As teachers move from Te Whāriki Principles to moment by moment relational decisions, these build to comprise a concept of what it takes to be learners and teachers in a wise learning community. While these journeys primarily connect to the particular setting, strategies that denote wise practice will emerge as thoughtful teachers reflect to make their engagements visible for other teams to consider. It seems to me that it is never useful to talk about good practice. That is so judgmental, for what is ‘good’? It’s a shifting notion depending on where you’re standing. Wise practice however sends messages about thoughtful, experiential engagements that generate an intensity around the notion that each time teachers act in particular ways they are building complexity into children’s learning experiences. This is what we all want to find out more about because we all know that these first years are the critical ones that set children up to be successful learners.  So, our hope is that we have an opportunity to grow leaderful communities with teachers who generously and diligently reflect on what it means to be a teacher working with and alongside our youngest children. We invite you to watch this space as we progressively provide vignettes from teachers that will offer insights into what wise practice looks like.

Monday, October 11, 2010

He aha te mea nui o te ao?

He aha te mea nui o te ao?

He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!

What is the most important thing in the world?

It is people! It is people! It is people!

The ELP official line - No one ever leaves ELP and ELP never leaves you - we are like the Soprano family - you can never get out alive. This being so we have agreed to lend Julie Killick to the North Auckland Kindergarten Association. Julie is now the Head Teacher at Stanmore Bay Kindergarten.

Julie you have given us many gifts. You brought your wonderful sense of joy, love, and fun to our family. You inspired us to play and try out many ‘possible selves’.

Julie, Petal

The ‘possible selves’

With fun and love


Leader, teacher, traveller,

warrior and wise woman

The who to be...

Dressage Queen, Ken

Miss Bunny, Secret Angel

Rita/Frida Kahlo and Storyteller

Your scarf wrapped presence

and JOY

a gift to us

Our lesson learnt


Experience life’s full richness

with FUN

The what to be

who to do...

Doing others

Being human


our friend

And so never a farewell, it is the sharing of a wonderful friend and family member. Julie you will always be present in our fun, hearts, minds and practice.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Night at the Opera

Last night I had the pleasure of going to the Opera with my youngest son Tommy. He had made it known earlier in the year that he would like to go to an Opera and as it was not something I had ever contemplated doing, I said I would look into it.
Macbeth was the chosen Opera (a marvelous production from the New Zealand Operatic Society), listening and watching this got me thinking about how good stories stand the test of time.
I have read Macbeth at school, seen it as a play at the Silo Theatre in Auckland, watched it on T.V as a part of the fabulous ‘Shakespeare Retold’ series and now I have had the pleasure of seeing it as an Opera.
Good stories stand the test of time!
What is it that sets these stories apart from other stories and what does this mean for the stories we write for the children in our early childhood centres? Will the stories you write today be as enduring for these children as Shakespeare?
I had an email a couple of weeks ago from a child I used to have at kindergarten (he is now ten) and he started by saying, ‘Hello Jo, I was looking through my portfolio last night.’ We know children will keep revisiting their portfolios long after they have left early childhood, so the stories we write will have to be robust enough to stand the test of time.
Some things in life are never ending, revisiting good stories is one of them.
Ka Kite

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Message from Berlin

As many of you know, the ELP team spent some time in the UK and Germany this year to deliver workshops and lectures about the NZ approach to early childhood education. In Berlin we stayed with our friend Sibylle who not only organised 2 conferences in Berlin and Teltow, but who also took us on a fabulous sightseeing programme and even challenged us to go on a bike ride around Potsdam. 

Sibylle wrote the following post for our blog:

The wonderful ELP Team has been in Berlin and Brandenburg in Germany! Many teachers had the chance to take part in the ELP conference 'Do you let me fly? Stories about learning from Aotearoa New Zealand'. It was amazing for me and a great gift to see and to feel the enthusiasm which inspired so many people. I would like to send some of the participant's statements round the globe. 
Thank you! Sibylle Haas in BerlinGermany.

"Now we trust the power of writing assessments in the narrative way, we are confident that we are able to write learning stories…" 

"'Personal attitude' is the magic word..."
"One day - that is too short [for this kind of event]." 
"The guests from New Zealand brought the spirit of learning stories to Berlin, they confirmed that we're on the right track and we learned a lot more."
"It was awesome, inspiring, funny and very hot! Passion makes everything possible. The conference was very helpful and empowering." 
"The examplars and films were very interesting." 
"Most important for me was the comparison of our assessment approach (the yellow book) with the New Zealand Curriculum and the roots of assessment. As a school teacher I learned a lot today."
"To hear the New Zealanders live was a great opportunity – very impressive and enthusiastic women!!"

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On the Mat - Wrestling with the BIG ONE!

“Mat times”, “Group times”, “Circle times”, “Meeting times” and “Whānau times” feature largely in our early learning centre programmes and fill the curriculum.

In her upcoming lecture, Kathryn will wrestle with ideas on teachers’ learning intentions and possible learning outcomes for children. - A lecture not to be missed!

Auckland: 14th September, 7pm-9pm,  Kohia Education Centre, Epsom Campus, Auckland University
Hamilton: 21st September, 7pm-9pm, PWC (MSB1.04), Management School, University of Waikato

Costs: $40 for ELP Members, $45 for non-members, $30 for full-time students

For more information (maps, upcoming lectures etc.) please visit out website: www.elp.co.nz

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Where is your vegetable garden?

Arriving home after 3 months away to be met by knee-length grass, muddy slopes, a disappearing gravel driveway and a vegetable garden that any cow wanting sweet green grass would be delighted by - was enough to stop me in my tracks. Well where do you start? Every time I pulled a weed out the hole filled up with water. Still the gardener in me persisted and I planted my seeds in my conservatory and my mini garden is thriving, waiting for dry days to be planted out. This got me thinking…..

Where is your vegetable garden, do you have one? Hopefully yes. And hopefully it's not stuck around in some pokey, uninteresting corner that nobody visits, but takes up plenty of space, is accessible and more importantly alive! Why oh why are we constraining ourselves with small square modular boxes for a few dying vegetables? What are we telling our children about the joy of growing our own food, and learning about the wonders of the growing seasons. Plants can grow anywhere and in almost anything. I have seen small gardens hanging on containers off fences, in tyres, in old wheelbarrows, in fact anything that can hold some soil can hold a plant. It doesn’t have to be purpose built and cost a small fortune. Soil is readily available in the ground, with a bit of additions it can quickly be ready to grow something. Children are quite able to dig, and very willing. Seeds are the cheapest way to get started. So what are you waiting for?

Let's fill our spaces with plants and start a year-round growing cycle in centres. Plants can be grown indoors, and if we make excuses that our children won’t look after them, we are setting the scene for expectations of failure. Children do respect the environment when they are surrounded by fabulous role models who have a genuine interest in what they are doing.

I would love to see fruit trees planted wherever there is a space for one to grow. Natural shade is unbeatable. Our environments are becoming so plastic, so unnatural that sometimes it is hard to believe that centres are actually located in New Zealand. So what a joy it is to see places where there is grass -yes it will be muddy at this time of year - welcome to nature. To see food being grown and picked, prepared and eaten in centres is a wonderful thing. There are places where children wander through their gardens showing a sense of ownership and also respect. Scenes like this fill my heart with hope. I know around New Zealand there are centres that have a strong and established culture of gardening. If your centre is not yet one of these, why not find a centre in your area to visit for inspiration. Clean, green New Zealand is sadly a fast fading image. However we know that what happens in Early Childhood Education can change the world, so let's get started on a gardening revolution. Find a spade and a few willing helpers and away you go……. Don’t forget to take some photos.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Don't be careful, you'll hurt yourself!!

In recent months risk has been a focus of some of the work of ELP, Wendy reveals a little insight into this work she has been sharing with teachers around NZ.

In a climate of increasing regulation and media hype it is vital that teachers stand back and reflect on the current notions of risk management. These risk averse views can, in the words of Michael Unger, create some very serious longer term problems, “Odd as it may sound, there is a connection between all the security we offer children and why kids behave violently, do drugs, and take risks with their bodies, minds, and spirits.” Take time to read Michael Unger’s book Too Safe for Their Own Good: How Risk and Responsibility Help Teens Thrive, I am sure you will find this a most worthwhile read as both a teacher and a parent in dealing on the day to day level with issues of risk.

Yes, the world is full of risks. Some are good risks and some are bad. Some would say, as indeed Beck does, that the society we now live in is “no longer concerned with attaining something good, but rather than preventing the worse?”. As teachers we need to turn this around in our early childhood settings. Children need to learn from a very young age how to both recognise and respond to risks in their environment. Risks provide a fabulous opportunity to learn. The struggle is important, valuing the struggle is important. It is through struggle and endeavour that we build our skills and experience and strengthen our learning. As Carol Dweck says, “You can see how the belief that cherished qualities can be developed creates a passion for learning... The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives“. Carol Dweck’s book entitled Mindset: The New Psychology of Success is a must read for all teachers. In my opinion every educational setting in the country should purchase this book.

It has the potential to change lives and minds! We as teachers need to consider these ideas in relation to providing opportunities for risk and responsibility. In the words of Gever Tulley "...there are aspects of danger in virtually everything we do, the trick is to learn how mastery actually minimizes danger. Walking is dangerous when we start as babies, but we persevere and it becomes safe. Next we learn to negotiate stairs. Why stop there? Why not practice and become proficient at walking on the roof or walking on a tightrope?” Listen to Gever Tulley on TED.com, I think his lectures would provide a great starting point for a parent or staff discussion group. It is useful to consider the freedom that so many of us had as children as we explored the world beyond our homes. So many of us appear to have brought into the notion that our streets are dangerous. This is not the reality, the most dangerous places for our children are in fact their homes. The statistics show this very conclusively. Many children are no longer experiencing a world of challenge and risk. We are turning a generation of children into ‘bubble wrap children’, we need to work with families to provide environments that are rich in opportunities for children to fail and to go on to pick themselves up and have another go. Giving children opportunities to learn their limits and how to bounce back so that they build resilience and persistence. It is through these pathways that children will strengthen a growth mindset.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Haere atu rā e whaea Bobi

From the ELP team our deepest sympathy to all those touched by the sudden passing of Whaea Bobi Dempsey of Aunty’s childcare centre.  Ki a Cherie, ngā kaiako, ngā tamariki me o koutou whānau, a te whānau pani, ngā mihi arohanui ki a koutou katoa.

Physically we are unable to be with you today at Whaea Bobi’s funeral as our team is working in Sweden and Germany for this month, however our thoughts will most certainly be focused on you all today and beyond.

Haere atu rā e whaea Bobi, haere atu rā ki tua o te arai, ka mihia koe e Hine nui te Pō, ka mihia koe e to whānau. Moe mai rā, moe mai rā, moe mai rā.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Young thrive with skilled teachers - NZ Herald 25 June 2010

Margaret Carr and Linda Mitchell on why early childhood centres need qualified staff

We found it startling that questions are being raised about whether teachers in early childhood services should be qualified.
Especially when we know know so much about the significance for lifelong learning of the early years and about the complexity of the education and care task.
Prime Minister John Key is wrong to say "It is a matter of personal belief as to whether a high proportion of centre staff should be trained [teachers]".
This is not so. It is a matter of an informed and evidence-based decision.
Questions about qualified versus non-qualified teachers would never be raised about the adults who teach 5 and 6 (or older) year-olds in school.

The lessening of targets for employing qualified teachers and the removal of the top two rates of funding for early childhood services employing 80 to 100 per cent registered teachers will undermine the high quality of early childhood education that New Zealand should be aiming for.
The services that will be hardest hit are those very services that have managed to achieve a highly qualified workforce and that offer an inspiration and exemplar to others.
Research evidence is clear that positive outcomes for children and families participating in early childhood education depend on the quality of staff; child interactions; the learning resources available; programmes that engage children, and a supportive environment for children to work together.
The outcomes for a child include things such as motivation, persistence, reciprocity, resilience and imagination that will set children on a life-long learning journey.

They include cognitive outcomes such as numeracy, reading and language progress - outcomes the Government is particularly interested in.
A key characteristic of a early childhood service supporting these child outcomes is that the adults working with children hold early childhood teacher qualifications.

This was the finding of the 2003 US National Institute of Child Health and Development study on the impact of childcare quality on children's cognitive development.
Across 10 countries, a 2006 International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement study of nearly 2000 children found that as levels of teacher education increased children's age-7 language performance improved.
The study found that teachers with more education use more words and more complex language in communicating with children.

Another US study of 800 4-year-olds, using data from the National Centre for Early Development and Learning, linked higher levels of teachers' education to gains on standardised measures of mathematics skills.

A myth has spread that early childhood education is over funded. Quite the reverse. New Zealand spends less on early childhood education than many countries.
A recent Unicef report (2008) suggested a benchmark and minimum level of 1 per cent of GDP should be spent by governments to ensure that childcare is managed in the best interests of children and societies.
New Zealand's level of funding is only 0.6 per cent of GDP. Its spending has increased three fold in the past five years, but it was woefully inadequate before.
And costs have increased because there are more services, more children participating, and more children attending longer hours than five years ago.
Money spent now on early childhood education saves money in the long run.

Together with Cathy Wylie at the NZ Council for Educational Research we recently completed a literature survey of outcomes of early childhood education, published by the Ministry of Education.
We found that investing in good quality early childhood education can bring actual cost benefits to government as well as to children and families.
One relevant study of quality provision with teaching staff qualified in special education and early childhood development followed the children to middle age.
It found that a dollar spent in early childhood saved $17 at age 40 in terms of the later cost of social services and criminal convictions, and the tax benefits from employment.

Key says that "There will be some [centre owners] that in the end say, "I want to be 100 per cent teacher-led", and I suspect that will be driven by the parents who send their children there and they may be prepared to pay a little bit more.
High income families whose children participate in early childhood centres will be able to afford the fees to maintain the high quality standard of 100 per cent qualified staff.
But low income families will not.
Economic inequality will now be associated from the early years with educational inequity.

The new education policy established by the May budget says that we cannot afford the financial cost of qualified teachers to provide care and education for all of New Zealand's youngest and most vulnerable of children.
We say that as a nation we cannot afford not to - the long-term social, economic and educational cost is too high.

Margaret Carr is Professor of Education and Dr Linda Mitchell is Senior Lecturer (Early Childhood Education) at the University of Waikato.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

FREE PUBLIC LECTURE Do early childhood educational transitions matter in the longer term?

Waikato Graduate Women Charitable Trust


Visiting Scholar Aline-Wendy Dunlop

Do early childhood educational transitions matter in the longer term?

In this lecture I will focus on experience over time for a group of young people who have participated in a 14 year longitudinal transitions study which is now drawing to an end. The participating cohort are making decisions for life after school. Their experience of education in one Scottish Local Authority reveals different trajectories through education and through educational transitions. A cohort of 150 children was tracked through their education from pre-school to the last year of secondary education. Focal children were case studied at each major transition – starting school, transition to secondary, making subject choices and contemplating school leaving. I have remained loyal to the challenge of finding out whether early childhood transitions matter in the longer term. I plan to consider a theoretical framework for transitions, to pose some questions about educational transitions, and through some transitions stories based on children’s educational trajectories, to propose key features of transitions and ambiguities that merit attention in early childhood and beyond.

Aline-Wendy Dunlop is from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. She is visiting the Department of Human Development and Counselling at Waikato University. We are very grateful to the Waikato Graduate Women Charitable Trust for funding to support this visit.

Date: Tuesday 20 July 2010
Time: 5.30 - 6.30pm
Venue: TL2.26
Email:  a.w.a.dunlop@strath.ac.uk

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The New Zealand Herald 31.05.2010 Qualified Teachers

The New Zealand Herald – Monday, May 31, 2010

Qualified teachers

It is incredible that in 2010 we are still debating whether all teachers of our youngest and most vulnerable children should be qualified.

New Zealand is world renowned for the ability of our qualified early childhood teachers to enable learning pathways in early childhood and into school.  It is a complex journey that engages teachers in both sectors.

The foundations of literacy, curiosity, identity and imagination are established in early childhood: qualified teachers implement a broad and rich curriculum that introduces babies and young children to interesting people, places, resources, information and challenges.  This is skilled work.

Research has described “sustained shared thinking” as a key to quality teaching and learning in early childhood.

This shared thinking included noticing and recognising opportunities for learning based on knowledge about early development and education principles.

Qualified teachers in early childhood engage families in the learning, too, developing partnerships with families from diverse backgrounds and cultures and using sophisticated assessment practices that are accessible and inviting.

In addition, qualified teachers are caring and concerned for the wellbeing of families.

The nation cannot afford to undervalue the professional nurturing of enthusiasm for lifelong learning in any of our children.

                           Margaret Carr, Professor of Education, Waikato University

Waikato Times 29.5.2010 Childcare fears at fund cuts

Waikato Times – Saturday, May 29, 2010

Childcare fears at fund cuts.
A reduction in some early-childhood care centre funding in February has Waikato educators torn between raising fees and reducing standards.  Karla Akuhata reports.

Waikato educators say they will be made the “bad guys” when the Government implements its decision to reduce funding to some early childcare centres.

From February, extra funding for early-childhood education providers with more then 80 per cent of their teachers registered will be cut by $1.34 an hour for each child under the age of two and $1.47 for those over two-years of age.

A family with a child under the age of two and in childcare for more than 40 hours a week at a centre which chooses to pass on the cuts would have to pay $60.40 more each week.

The cuts will affect 161 centres in the Waikato including 75 in Hamilton.

A further 95 centres will also move into the affected band later this year because of the previous government’s target which required centres to have at least 80 per cent of their staff fully qualified by 2010.

Labour spokesperson for early childhood education Sue Moroney said the cuts would wipe away all progress made in the early childhood sector.

“We wouldn’t accept this at primary level and we wouldn’t accept it at secondary so why do we accept when it comes to our babies?” she said.

“They are effectively saying that a good education at early childhood level is not important.”

Angela Carson operates two north Hamilton centres and said the Kids Club employed only fully qualified staff.

She said it would be families that would really pay for the cuts.

“For us it is about the financial issues but mostly it is about the children,” she said.  “Centres will have to absorb the extra costs by dropping qualified staff numbers or cutting resources like trips or by passing on the shortfall to the families.

“They have decided what is going to give the smallest impact is better rather than upsetting the masses and we will have to be the bad guys when it comes to implementing it because we will have to find a way to absorb the costs and inform the parents about what changes need to be made.”

She said she was determined to try and limit the amount passed on to parents but was worried about the effect that would have on the quality of education the children received.

Education Minister Anne Tolley said the cuts would not affect the quality of service.

“Early childhood education services are independent and make their own decisions about fees,” she said.  “Less than half of services are affected by the changes to funding, and we have given them more than eight months to adapt.”

“A $46.7 million cost adjustment over four years will help providers meet increasing costs and reduce the need for fee increases.

“We have set a target of 80 per cent registered teachers by 2012, which will ensure that high standards will be maintained across the sector.”

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Goodbye Megan (Professional Practice Manager, Northland Kindergarten Assn)

Alison writes:

It is difficult when you are very far away from home and loved ones to hear of the death of a good friend. Megan Cooke was the kind of friend that would always tell you the truth, who laughed readily and was a wise and lovely woman. I can’t quite believe we have lost her. I will miss our animated discussions about the joys and wonders of teaching and I am reminded so much to take every moment of friendship as a precious gift and that our individual strength and wisdom comes from those who we are closest to and whom we trust and love the most.
If you knew Megan you would know her beautiful singing voice, her giggle that often grew into gulps of uncontrollable laughter and her passion for sewing, amongst many other wise gifts.
It is very early in the morning here in England, already the birds are waking and I can hear the river flowing, the rhythm of nature moves on. Time to appreciate our friends and those we love, as we never get these moments back.

Goodbye Megan

Saturday, May 29, 2010

New Zealand Kindergarten Inc - News Release

Wendy writes:
As many of you who are currently working in New Zealand Kindergartens will know, the latest budget cuts around trained teacher funding are going to have enormous implications for the kindergarten service. Below is the latest response from the NZ Kindergarten Inc.

News Release


New Zealand Kindergartens Inc, the national group representing 29 of the 33 Kindergarten associations across New Zealand, says that children could be the big losers in the budget announcement made today.

Funding at the top rate will be reduced by 12.6% in February 2011. NZ Kindergartens Chief Executive Clare Wells said: “We are deeply shocked at the Government’s decision to cut funding to Early Childhood Education services. As community-based, not-for-profit organisations, kindergartens rely on the funding from government to meet most of our costs.

“The budget will strip over $12 million per year from kindergarten budgets. We will have to make up the short-fall by cutting back spending which could jeopardise the quality of our service, or be forced to pass some costs onto parents. That means children could miss out.”

Currently, Early Childhood Education centres receive government funding at different rates, depending on their proportion of qualified teachers. Those employing 100% fully registered and qualified teachers, like Kindergarten, receive the highest funding rate. The budget cuts will see funds taken away from Kindergartens and other centres where more than 80% of teachers are fully qualified.
“The decision to take funding away from centres with between 80 - 100% qualified teaching staff is really short sighted. Employing qualified teachers is a mark of quality and we know children attending high quality services are likely to be more successful at school. The Government has increased funding over the years to improve quality so New Zealand can reap the rewards in the long term. These cuts undermine the investment made to date.

“There is little doubt that the cost cutting by the Government will have negative results, potentially reducing quality and participation. Either way, it is the children and the families that lose out. The benefits of quality Early Childhood Education are proven. This shortsighted decision could actually end up costing the Government more in the long run,” said Clare Wells.

For more information, please contact:
Clare Wells Tel: 04 495 3744
Chief Executive Mob: 0272 955 044
New Zealand Kindergarten Inc www.nzkindergarten.org.nz

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

THE NZ HERALD Monday, May 24, 2010

Wendy writes:
It was very disturbing to read the Herald on Monday and to discover how little is understood about the critical importance of trained teachers in early childhood settings. This atrocious act is attacking those providers of early childhood education in NZ who have worked the hardest to achieve the highest quality of provision for our youngest and most vunerable members of our society. While we would applaud the Government for addressing the issues of participation, we are gobsmacked at the lack of vision that has now been revealed. It is not just participation that is critical, but QUALITY PARTICIPATION. There is significant evidence in a number of robust research studies that for every $1 spent in early childhood education the Government saves at least $8. We hope that the wider community will continue these important conversations with their Members of Parliament.

The NZ Herald Editorial: Preschool Budget cuts right move

One of the more contentious decisions hidden in the Budget last Thursday was in the financing of early childhood education. The previous Government gave childcare centres an incentive to employ trained teachers, increasing their grants as they hired a greater proportion of qualified staff.
The Budget has done away with two of the highest bands of subsidy, effectively cutting funds to centres with more than 80 per cent of their staff trained.
It expects to save $280 million over four years out of an annual allocation for childcare that has risen from $428 million to $1.3 billion since Labour introduced its policy of 20 hours a week free for 3- and 4-year-olds and imposed staff training obligations.
Fewer than half the country's 4300 centres have more than 80 per cent of their teachers registered yet. The cost blowout over the past five years would have escalated further without the decision National has taken.
While the cut-off will save $295 million, Education Minister Anne Tolley plans to put $107 million back into other early education programmes, $91.8 million of it earmarked for Maori, Pacific and low-income areas.
Plainly, National does not regard specialist teaching of pre-school children to be quite as important as Labour did. It is probably right. When the previous Government imposed training requirements, there were loud objections from childcare companies that some capable and dedicated staff would be unable to meet these. National does not want to drum them out of the industry.
From next February, no centre will be funded for 100 per cent trained staff. Those that have more than 80 per cent will have to charge higher fees if they will not reduce their staffing costs. Fees may have to rise next year by $25-$42 a week. They will release public funds for those who would otherwise miss out.
The Childcare Association calls this a "brutal blow" which could affect more than 2000 teachers and 93,000 children. The primary teachers union, which includes early childhood teachers, said the Budget threatened to "dumb down" early education and punish those most committed to improving its quality.
But did childcare centres ever need to be fully staffed by trained teachers? Or was this a classic case of "qualification inflation". There are powerful interests at stake when training requirements are decided. Training institutions can expand, unions can enlist more members and base their pay claims on the qualifications required. Arguing against them can be difficult when the subject is children.
It is easy to insist little children deserve nothing but the best. And working parents who place their infants in childcare want to be assured on that score. But "the best" at this level might not require professional training. The best could include people with an aptitude for caring but not for academic study and tests. Checks on their performance can be reliably left to a competitive industry that must constantly satisfy observant parents.
The Government is right to direct more of its early education support to areas where children are missing out. It has chosen five community projects based on successful programmes in Counties-Manukau and Tamaki.
Pre-school attendance is of proven benefit to a child's later education and no child should miss out. But once kindergartens and playschool gave way to fulltime childcare, the teaching profession took control and the cost to the taxpayer rocketed. Something needed to be done. It seems reasonable to suggest that eight trained teachers out of 10 staff is a perfectly adequate ratio. It has the side benefit of keeping some unqualified but dedicated carers in the job.
Contentious the decision may be but it seems educationally harmless, socially equitable and financially necessary.

Wendy writes:
What follows is a very thoughtful response from Annemarie Quill of Tauranga which was published in The New Zealand Herald on Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Annemarie Quill explains why the Budget is bad news for parents who want the best for their children.

Love babies? Become an early-childhood teacher. When applying for the job, leave out your degree.
A qualification will no longer be of value to centre owners if they already have their quota of 80 per cent of qualified staff. Last week's Budget cancelled the financial incentive to centres to employ 100 per cent qualified teachers.
The Government argues that 80 per cent is enough. There are unqualified childcare workers who have extensive experience. Many are mothers or grandmothers.
I am mum to a 6-year-old. I can't teach her primary school class to read. Sometimes I cut my daughter's fringe. It doesn't make me a hairdresser.
A piece of paper alone does not make a great teacher. But it should be a minimum benchmark for someone to whom we entrust our babies.
In other professional arenas we do not tolerate half-measures. We demand rigorous standards, which include both qualifications and experience.
We would decline an operation from a surgeon who learned his trade from Shortland Street.
We wouldn't choose a lawyer's practice where one in five doesn't have a law degree.
So why accept this dumbing down of standards for our youngest children?
With the number of New Zealand children in childcare mushrooming, particularly babies as young as 3 months, these children deserve care that is richly resourced.
The most valuable resources are professional staff. All the wooden blocks in the world cannot replicate teacher interactions.
The first five years of life are crucial for brain development. Poor early relationships cause devastation later in life.
While New Zealand's older children terrorise each other on the playground, drink themselves to death or stab their teachers, this Government is now committed to spending more on prisons than on quality care for babies.
The childcare sector has fought hard to be recognised as part of the education curve. Labour's funding policy was based on extensive research that children in care outside the home thrive with qualified teachers. The benefits last throughout school and beyond.
True, the Budget needed to address the spiralling cost to the taxpayer of childcare funding. But last week's cuts hurt the kids, not the industry.
The huge financial investment in the sector has not always filtered down to those it was meant for - the children.
Childcare is big business. Government funding, plus high parental fees, has made childcare the cash cow of the noughties-like retirement villages and rental property of previous years.
Witness the number of investors-many from overseas-who piled into the sector for financial motives. Their love of the alphabet is limited to the logos on shiny new Hiluxes.
These business owners will not take the Budget's hit on their bottom line. Instead, they will pass on the cost to parents in fees or "donations".
Centres may opt to focus on 3- or 4-year olds to benefit from the continuing 20 "free" hours subsidies.
This potentially leaves the growing number of under-2s in childcare with the least qualified staff. Yes, some loving and attentive. Others just cheap labour on minimum wage.
Centres who retain 100 per cent qualified teachers are likely to be unaffordable for many families. Most of our kids will be left 20 per cent of the time with the "love babies" brigade.
For those who doubt the dire human and economic consequences of poor quality childcare, a reminder of another booming industry sector which a previous National Government deregulated in the 90s.
Similiar funding cuts, a downgrade of the apprenticeship system, and relaxed regulations for 100 per cent qualified and registered professionals.
Love building anyone?

Annemarie Quill is a Tauranga writer, early childhood teacher and mother of three.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Three Professors of Education have their say!

Wendy writes:
I urge all teachers to share this press release with their families and to share their thoughts and concerns about the shifts in policy that are currently taking place in ECE in NZ. We are world leaders, and are considered by the rest of the world to be at the forefront of educational change. Our provision is regarded as one of the most outstanding in the world, we have had an enormous influence of early childhood provision internationally. We need to be talking about these issues with our local MP's. Take time to consider what you might do make visible what is currently happening to early childhood education in NZ.

Families should beware of the erosion of quality in Early Childhood Education, according to three Professors of Education

Families should be concerned about the steps that the government is taking to erode the quality of early childhood education in New Zealand, according to three Professors of Education, Helen May, Margaret Carr and Anne Smith.  The latest indication that cuts will be made to the funding for the Twenty Free Hours in the forthcoming budget, is just a further downward step in a long series of policy changes which are threatening the quality of New Zealand’s highly respected early childhood services.

Currently the discussions in the media are mostly about the cost to families. The cost of services is an important consideration for parents when they decide whether to enrol their children in early childhood education. Professors May, Carr & Smith hope the government will honour its election promise to keep the 20 Hours policy unchanged. They urge families to keep a critical eye on the quality of children’s experiences in centres, as well as on the cost. Government concerns about the 'trebling' in costs for early childhood education is in fact about the cost of policies intended to redress a long tail of: underfunding, low qualification levels, poor quality and high costs to parents. These successes are now under threat.

“Although this government has been keen to raise standards, it runs a great risk of undermining the quality of education in New Zealand by eroding some key aspects of the work in the early childhood sector. Children in quality early childhood do well at school, and this erosion is an example of inconsistent and disconnected policies” said Professor Margaret Carr at the University of Waikato. She added: “I fear that there may be more reduction of quality to come, seriously threatening the ability of the early childhood sector to work with families to provide the foundations for resourceful caring and imaginative citizens who love learning and know how to learn. Early years teachers work with children at an important time for brain development, and their work is highly skilled”.

Since coming to power, the government has removed or lowered expectations in a number of areas which influence quality.  These include:- 
  • the axing of professional development programmes for early childhood teachers to support implementing the early childhood curriculum;
  • cancelling the Centres of Innovation scheme - a project which showcased innovative practice to inspire other centres;
  • reducing to 80%, and extending the time frame, of the 100% goal of qualified  and registered early childhood teachers in all centres; 
  • reducing to 50% the requirement for qualified and registered teachers in provision for under-twos;  rescinding previously agreed improvements in the ratios of teachers to children;
  • reducing the training incentive grants

Centres which have 100% qualified staff, beyond requirements, are hugely concerned that the funding to pay teachers salaries linked to the number of qualified staff will be similarly cut back. Families will be concerned about this too.

“What happens to young children matters a lot, and if children don’t have access to top quality early childhood education during the early years, it is a missed opportunity to have a positive impact on their lifelong learning”, according to Emeritus Professor Anne Smith from the University of Otago. 

Professor Smith says that the evidence is overwhelming that in-depth teacher education is one of the most important elements of quality, which has long-term effects on young children’s learning, and she finds it inexplicable that the government is lowering expectations for early childhood training.  Under twos are particularly vulnerable to poor quality, so it’s just as important for people working with under two year-olds to be qualified as it is for older children.

Professor Helen May, Dean of the University of Otago College of Education reports that, “For some years New Zealand has been internationally regarded as a flagship in creating the necessary infrastructure of early childhood policy around issues of quality, qualifications, access and curriculum. There was still more to do, and the undermining of these policies is dispiriting, and even embarrassing, as there is continuing worldwide interest in our policy initiatives”.

Professors May, Carr and Smith are early childhood researchers who have had a major part in the development of early childhood policies in New Zealand for the last 30 years.

Professor Helen May
Dean University of Otago College of Education.

Emeritus Professor Anne Smith
University of Otago College of Education

Professor Margaret Carr
University of Waikato