Rural Women fight for early childhood education

Published: Thu 7 Oct 2004 01:16 PM
7 October 2004
Rural Women fight for early childhood education
Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) is incensed that new regulations governing early childhood education are threatening the future of perfectly viable centres.
Kawhia Preschool is one of many early childhood centres who face closure because they are unable to comply with onerous regulations, despite achieving good ERO reviews and having strong community support.
RWNZ education spokeswoman Jacky Stafford says it is ridiculous that an issue must be taken to the High Court before the government sits up and takes notice.
“This is not an isolated case. New qualification and staffing policies will make it extremely difficult for up to 400 centres in rural areas and small provincial towns to survive,” says Mrs Stafford, who is also chair of the Rural Education Reference Group (RERG).
“The new legislation means that many of the people who work in early childhood education are no longer qualified to do so, even though they are perfectly competent. This has left many smaller communities with insufficient staff to sustain a centre.”
Mrs Stafford says that the plight of Kawhia Preschool reflects the impact of policy that has been made without due consideration of the consequences.
“The Government has completely failed to appreciate the reality of life in rural New Zealand where the pool of potential staff is limited.”
The qualification for early Childhood education used to involve an 18-month course. The training requirement is now a three-year course, which excludes many potential candidates in rural areas.
“People in the cities have much more choice as to where they send their children. Once a facility is closed in a rural centre, often that is it – no other options are available,” says Mrs Stafford.
RWNZ endorses the need for quality standards in early childhood education, but insists that more flexibility needs to be applied as to how those standards are attained.
“The Minister cannot tell us that centres with proven quality performance, are substandard just because the requisite number of staff do not have the right piece of paper to comply with punitive licensing requirements.”
Mrs Stafford says that if the Minister wants to impose stricter training criteria on early childhood educators, he needs to be more realistic about how it can be delivered, particularly due to the fact that many childhood educators are mothers with young children of their own.
RWNZ has repeatedly aired their concerns with the Minister of Education and the Minister of Rural Affairs.
Mrs Stafford says that the Government has undertaken to make early childhood education available to all, while imposing rules that will mean 23% of children could miss out.
“This is yet another example of the Government making policy with insufficient knowledge of the consumer base and with poor understanding of the practical implications.”

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