Early childhood education (ECE) has been under the spotlight.
The New Zealand Herald’s Kirsty Johnston recently reported major quality issues, with 150 ECE providers rated by the Education Review Office (ERO) in 2014 as “requiring further development”.
NZEI union boss Louise Green blames market forces, stating in a press release that “the rapid rise of market-driven early childhood education is putting many children at risk of missing out on quality learning in their early years”.
It is a good thing to question quality, particularly in a sector dedicated to the care of children. …
It is always good to question quality but the figures firstly need to be put into context, and some critical thinking is needed on the claim that quality issues are due to the increase in private provision of ECE.
Johnston reported that 150 providers require “further development”. But that is not the rating that indicates the poorest quality. The “not well placed” rating is the one to be worried about, and is used by ERO when the service is “not performing adequately, is not meeting legal requirements and does not have the capacity to make improvements without support or Ministry involvement”. These are the ECE providers with real quality issues.
Twelve of the 1,593 providers were rated as “not well placed” in the review period 18-month review period to February this year. That’s under 1%.
So the Herald spent an entire week running horror stories about the ECE sector, when in fact under 1% of providers are failing.
Are market forces to blame for this 1% very poor quality as Green suggests? After all, 43% of ECE providers are private.
To answer this, it’s helpful to compare ECE to the schooling system, where only 3% of schools are private. If market forces are to blame for quality issues in ECE, then logically there should be a much smaller proportion of schools with major quality issues.
Indeed, as 97% of schools are state schools.
There are 76 of 2,532 schools currently under statutory intervention. That’s about 3%.
It’s a pity the Herald didn’t include this info, rather than mainly run attack lines from the unions.
The proportion of private providers that received ratings of “not well placed”, “requires further development”, “well placed” and “very well placed” in 2014 was around 0.6%, 13%, 79% and 8%, respectively.
The proportions of community-owned providers receiving each rating, by contrast, was 1.4%, 9%, 77%, and 14%.
Not a big difference. In fact at the failing end of the scale, there are fewer private providers.
Some of the stories that came out in the media about ECE quality are concerning. But the good thing about ECE is that parents have choice.