ECE Taskforce Report hits choppy waters

The recent ECE Taskforce Report has been slammed by the nationwide network of Playcentre Associations many members of which could have been expected to cast votes for centre-right candidates at the November election.

In brief the ECE Report appears to be pushing a line that government funding should be moved from low quality ECE providers to high quality ones. So far so good. The problem comes when the Taskforce seems to relate “quality” to employment of professional teachers. Groups like Playcentre which provide ECE based on trained parents meeting NZQA-approved courses are likely to miss out big time on current funding.

Playcentres argue that they too are a quality ECE provider and just because they involve parents rather than professional teachers they should not be discriminated against.

The political problem could be exacerbated given that Playcentres are low cost to run (they use parent volunteer time) and they provide quality ECE services in diffcult to reach areas such as rural towns. Taking them out of the ECE equation could prove financially risky – as well as politically challenging.

Finally, among ECE educators there is a lingering suspicion that this ECE policy shift is more about bolstering female participation in the workforce – rather than early childhood education per se. If labour market participation rates are the concern – and they may be – then good policy formulation requires that the policy goal be stated in a clear and transparent way.

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