A new report from the Advisory Group on Early Learning recommends that early childhood education (ECE) services and schools have a more formal responsibility to work with children and their families as they make the critical transition from ECE to school.
The advisory group found no major gaps in the current system, however they made a number of key recommendations to strengthen early learning, including updating and digitising the ECE curriculum framework, Te Whariki, and enhancing professional learning and development for ECE.
The recommendations were welcomed by Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand (ECNZ).
ECNZ chief executive Nancy Bell is particularly pleased to see the focus on transition to school.
“Thoughtful attention to this critical period will help all children but especially those whose home language is not English and children with special educational needs.”
She also welcomed the inclusion of ECE services in Communities of Learning although she cautioned that funding would be required to be able to release teachers to take part.
Primary teachers’ union NZEI Te Riu Roa agreed that funding is crucial to any changes to ECE services.
“Our kindergartens and ECE centres are facing a funding crisis due to a government driving up participation at the expense of quality. Per-child funding is inadequate and quality community centres and kindergartens are feeling a severe pinch,” said national executive member Virginia Oakly.
“Good initiatives such as increased non-contact hours and a greater focus on special educational needs will have to be backed up not only with dollars but also with a move away from market-driven provision."
Associate Dean (Teacher Education) at the College Dr Alex Gunn welcomed the recommended changes in the report but said news of an updated and digitised early childhood curriculum should be responded to with caution. She would not support any development of commercial curriculum software of “the kind currently flooding the market” because in her experience such software is acting to detract from quality curriculum implementation.