INDEPENDENT NEWS

Union's narrow view of quality challenged

Published: Mon 20 Oct 2003 10:39 PM
Union's narrow view of quality challenged
NZEI are on their soap box yet again extolling the virtues of full training to a three year diploma level for all staff in the early childhood sector in yet another push to make the ECE sector a replica of the failing school model, says Sue Thorne, CEO of the Early Childhood Council.
Sue Thorne said the union believes quality can only be achieved through the employment of registered teachers. She argues that teacher training is but one input to quality.
The union's narrow view shows how little the primary teacher union actually knows about how an early childhood centre operates and perhaps why only eight percent of the 10,000 staff in the education and care sector actually belong to this union, Sue Thorne said.
NZEI fail to realise that teachers working in early childhood centres work as a team, not in isolation with a class of children as they do in the school sector. The structure of an early childhood centre provides for a range of roles, including ones for fully-trained staff, as well as staff with lower levels of qualification and experience.
In the education and care sector the ratios are between 1:4 to 1:8 depending on the age group of the children. In kindergartens where the ratios are 1:15, the few trained staff rely on the extra pairs of hands provided by voluntary parent to help run their programmes, positions which in the education and care sector are held by staff with lower level qualifications and/or experience.
It was with the union's push that this government gave free kindergarten associations increases in their bulk funding so they could give their teachers pay parity with the primary sector. This same union and the government ignored the teachers working in all other parts of the ECE sector with the same qualifications, and have left parents to pick up the cost flow-on effects of this discriminatory funding arrangement.
Currently 70 percent of the trained staff working in the ECE sector have attained their diploma qualifications by distance learning or in service training where they work in the job and undertake formal training at the same time. One of the most significant impacts of the union and the government's push to have all staff fully trained (apart from the enormous extra cost to parents) will be to no longer allow this mode of training for people entering the sector.
This will be an enormous pity as it is well known that these staff, often mature women returning to the work force after having their own children, have the skills that are highly sought after in an ECE centre. "Shutting the door on this type of training and excluding these excellent people from our sector will be an enormous loss and have a serious negative effect on quality," says Mrs Thorne. The shift to pre service training only, which isn't an option for many potential ECE staff, will put further pressure on a sector that is already struggling to attract sufficient staff.

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