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

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.”