ECE satisfaction has been increasing not decreasing

October 9th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

New Zealand’s early childhood education system came under friendly fire this week as a survey found up to a quarter of teachers in the sector would not enrol their own children in it.

One hundred and fifty three teachers out of 601 surveyed said they would not be happy for their child to attend the centre where they worked. Soundbites included analogies to “factory farming” and “crowd management”.

The survey provides no breakdown of reasons, just some inflammatory soundbites. We don’t know how many said they would not send their children to ECE because they would prefer to look after them themselves.

Now, the quality versus quantity debate appears to be at an impasse. New Zealand’s 1:5 teacher-child ratio is one of the best in the world, although Australia and many European countries have 1:4. At that level, small differences matter.

One survey respondent put it bluntly: “When one goes to change nappies, the other teacher is left with nine babies. One day I was feeding a baby and the other teacher was changing a nappy. Another child started crying while two babies were hitting each other with toys. How can you handle this kind of situation?”

With more teachers. Three adults across 12 children completely changes that dynamic. It’s hard to argue that two extra percentage points on a participation rate already comfortably in the 90s would trump that.

The editorial ignores the cost of increasing the number of teachers by 25% – it would be over $250 million a year. And the reality is parents are actually far happier with ECE services than in the past.

Here’s the satisfaction scores from the SSC Kiwis Count survey on early childhood education:

  • 2007: 73%
  • 2009: 76%
  • 2012: 77%
  • 2013: 79%
  • 2014: 81%

It is no surprise a survey done by a group whose members include ECE centres who would benefit from more money, finds a quote or two to get headlines. But the SSC survey of actual parents shows satisfaction is high and steadily increasing.

Rose Patterson on state vs private education providers

May 15th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Rose Patterson of the NZ Initiative writes at

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.



ECE Participation Rates

May 1st, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The latest data on early childhood education rates came out this week. The non-participation rate continues to fall:

  • All children 3.9%, down 2.5% from 2008
  • Maori children 6.2%%, down 4.2% from 2008
  • Pasifika children 9.0%, down 5.9% from 2008
  • Decile 1 children 11.2%, down 8.6% from 2010

So the fall in non-participation rates has been significant.

Sense from US education secretary

April 2nd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Nicholas Jones at the Herald reports:

Efforts to ensure all Kiwi kids can access early childhood education are “way ahead” of a similar American push, says the US Secretary of Education.

Arne Duncan has been in New Zealand at the International Summit on the Teaching Profession in Wellington, one of the biggest events in world education.

In an interview with the Herald, America’s top education official also said charter schools could be a valuable opportunity for New Zealand.

Mr Duncan, who has previously hosted Education Minister Hekia Parata, said he was keen to learn more about New Zealand’s early childhood education while here.

“We are pushing very, very hard back home in the States to increase access to high-quality early learning opportunities,” he said.

“And I think, frankly, New Zealand is way ahead of us in creating those kinds of opportunities at scale.”

The National Government wants 98 per cent of children starting school in 2016 to have participated in quality early childhood education.

In the 2007/08 year $807 million was spent in ECE. The budget for the current financial year is $1.48 billion which is a massive 83% increase in six years. For some reason, Labour and Greens call this a cut!!

The US has more than 5600 public charter schools in 42 out of 50 states, and one in 20 students nationally attends one, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

Despite being widespread they do face opposition. Newly elected New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, has been highly critical of charter schools.

Asked for his overall verdict on them, Mr Duncan said there was “huge variation”.

I’ve visited some amazing, amazing schools that are absolutely closing achievement gaps. We need to learn from those examples and replicate them. [But] when you have low-performing charter schools you need to challenge that status quo as well.”

Duncan is a Democrat, and a former head of the Chicago public schools. When he says some charter schools have done amazing work at closing achievement gaps, he is worth listening to. Why does the left want to close them down in NZ, rather than give them a chance to succeed?

Mr Duncan said the idea for the schools came from union leader Albert Shanker, who hoped to establish “laboratories of innovation”. Successes could then be spread to the wider education system.

“I think there’s a great opportunity there for this country.”

The left in NZ should embrace charter schools, as many of the left in the US have done.

Labour says early childhood centres are unsafe

May 14th, 2013 at 7:37 pm by David Farrar

In Parliament today:

Chris Hipkins: … but I am concerned about students’ safety from being in classrooms with unqualified, unregistered teachers …

Hon Nikki Kaye: Is the member saying that children in early childhood centres are unsafe? Is that what the member is saying? Is that what he’s saying to every single child in an early childhood centre.


Go read the full transcript but Chris Hipkins clearly says he believes early childhood centres are unsafe because they also can have unregistered teachers.

Is there no end to the scaremongering?

What is especially appalling is to make such claims when we’ve just had the case in Northland of dozens of kids abused by a registered teacher.

Hipkins would have you believe that charter schools will be staffed with pedophiles who have been sacked from state schools. Nonsense. The law allows them to negotiate a proportion of their teachers to be unregistered with the Ministry of Education – if there is a good reason for doing so. There will be the odd exceptional person who can be of great value who may not be a registered teacher. I expect once charter schools are up and running, the number of unregistered teachers will be very low.

Also worth recalling that organisations such as Teach for America send tens of thousands of top graduates into schools in low income communities to help inspire and improve learning outcomes. Their graduates are basically all “unregistered” yet many studies have shown they achieve better results.

Anyway back to the main point – Labour is telling parents that their kids are unsafe at early childhood centres. What horrific deplorable scaremongering.

Do babysitters need to qualified?

March 10th, 2012 at 8:55 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Ms Bennett said formal early childcare education was not always the best way for children to be looked after.

“I agree that we need more childcare centres in the right place so that we are particularly giving access to those that don’t have it now.” In some smaller communities, centres were not viable, she said.

“We just constantly have this, that only fully qualified people can look after children and it’s not the reality of what happens for families on a day-to-day basis.

“Parents aren’t always fully qualified, neither are grandparents.”

The Government was still grappling with how it could help fund more informal childcare, Ms Bennett said.

Labour social development spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said unqualified, unvetted babysitters were not the answer and not in the best interests of the children.

This insistence that all early childhood care must be done by qualified practitioners makes me wonder how previous generations coped.

Napier and kindies

April 15th, 2011 at 3:42 pm by David Farrar

Had a breakfast coffee this morning in Napier with local MP Chris Tremain.Was amused that around two out of three people walking past stopped to greet him – one seat where the MP has no problems with recognition. Also noted that he seemed to know most of them by name also – one of the nice things about provincial seats.

Chris also showed me the accounts of the local Napier Kindergarten Association. He noted in a local release:

The Napier Kindergarten Association is to be highly congratulated, says Chris Tremain MP for Napier.

“On Monday evening I attended the Napier Kindergarten Association AGM where it was disclosed that despite a change in Government funding the Association would deliver more services for less money,” says Chris Tremain.

“This is an outstanding result and goes to the heart of the Government’s drive to get more value for taxpayer dollars.

“The Association have achieved this result without reducing the 100% teacher qualified rates, without increasing costs to parents and without any loss of jobs, while at the same time increasing access to more kids. In addition their sound management ensures that more kids in disadvantaged communities around the country will get more access to ECE. This is an outstanding effort and the Board and senior management are to be congratulated.

So what did the NKA do:

“The Napier Kindergarten Association are a highly professional group of people absolutely devoted to the education of our children. They were concerned about the Budget 2010 decision that they would only be funded to 80% Teacher Qualified from February, 2011.

“But the Annual Report shows that the Association has risen to the challenge by introducing Friday afternoon sessions, opening for 5 more days, diversifying Marewa and Taradale to 5 day licenses, and shaving some non-essential expenses. This has resulted in more ECE places in Napier/Wairoa for less money, an outstanding result.

“The 2010 accounts presented at the AGM showed that the Association budgeted for a $139,000 loss, but actually made a surplus of $328,000. On top of this their balance sheet shows investments of $1.85 million and equity of $1.4 million. Despite the funding changes, it was reported that the forecast for 2011 shows a deficit of just $70,000, which is significantly smaller than the budgeted deficit in 2010.”

So the NKA has made a significant surplus, has kept 100% qualified teachers, has not out fees up, and has delivered more services. They’re an example for the country.

And the contrast to this is what happened to ECE under Labour. Labour increased funding by 200%, yet the number of children in ECE increased by only 1%.

ECE spending

February 1st, 2011 at 8:51 am by David Farrar

NZPA report:

Labour is pledging to restore $400 million the Government has cut from early childhood education (ECE)

You really do have to wonder what sort of fiscal fairyland Labour are living in.

It gets even worse when you realise that the so called cuts, are in fact due to their miscalculation of costs. To quote the Minister:

Education Minister Anne Tolley says the Government’s investment in early childhood education (ECE) in the coming year will be $100 million above the original Budget 2010 allocation, bringing the total spend to $1.4 billion.

“This is the most ever spent by any Government on early childhood education, reflecting the importance we place on the future of our young children,” says Mrs Tolley.

$1.4b on ECE is not an insignificant amount of money.

“We are now at the stage where the taxpayer is subsidising ECE centres at an average of $7600 per child per year.

“This compares to an average of $5528 for a primary school student, and $6733 for a student at secondary school.

I understand it is possible for some children to cost the taxpayer almost $60,000 in ECE costs befiore they reach primary school.

“It makes no sense that ECE funding has trebled over the last five years, while the number of children starting school with some form of ECE has increased by only around one per cent.

Remember that figure – funding has trebled in five years. We are borrowing $300 million a week and Labour still says it is not enough and we must spend an extra $400 million. Goffynomics will lead to a credit downgrade very quickly.

An NZEI Survey

August 17th, 2010 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

I’ve been forwarded on the survey results from an NZEI poll of parents, which they claim shows huge opposition to the budget decision to only fund 80% of staff positions in ECE centres to be fully qualified teachers. In other words, that 1 in 5 can be helpers.

Sadly the NZEI never asked people the question – should 100% or 80% of staff be required to be fully qualified. That would have got some useful data. First of all they start with a wee typo:

The Government has cut funding to Early Childhood Education Centres with the most qualified staff. Let us know what you think and we’ll pass your views on to the Prime Ministrer. Thank You!

Hey I know I do may typos also. However I am not an education union protesting about an education issue, in a formal survey.

Question 1 – Do you believe your child should have qualified early childhood education teachers?
Question 2 – Do you agree that all children should have qualified early childhood education teachers?
Question 3 – Do you agree that parents should pay more for early childhood education than they do at present?
Question 4 – Do you agree that quality early childhood education is an investment in New Zealand’s future?

Who is going to answer no to any of those questions? They are so leading that they are useless.

Why not just ask them directly their views on 80% qualified vs 100% qualified? Because that may not get them the right result.

Do three year olds need 100% teachers?

May 27th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

An interesting op ed in the Herald by Fiona Hughes of Kidicorp:

The Government decision to not have 100 per cent qualified teachers in early childhood education is a good one. …

The Budget decision to get rid of 100 per cent teachers in early childhood education is practical and informed. Qualified teachers play a vital role in child development and so do quality carers. Centres need nanas too.

Quality childcare starts with qualified teachers but it doesn’t end there. Early childhood education is not just about education but quality care and this care may come from someone who doesn’t have a three-year degree. This doesn’t make them unsuitable to look after children. …

Suggesting to those who have no qualifications but whom have a wonderful love of children that they don’t know how to support children’s learning is unfair. A mum and grandmother of 20 years can be a wonderful asset in a childcare centre with her calm and practical knowledge. …

Centres don’t need a qualified teacher changing nappies but you do need them to observe children and look at how they might extend their learning.

A skilled qualified teacher is invaluable with observing a child and then knowing how to extend the child’s learning, so an interest in a chrysalis can turn into an appreciation of the whole cycle of a butterfly.

Unqualified carers in a centre play a different role to qualified teachers but it’s still a worthy role.

Sounds reasonable to me.

Editorials 24 May 2010

May 24th, 2010 at 3:14 pm by David Farrar

The Herald applauds changes to per-school budgets:

One of the more contentious decisions hidden in the Budget last Thursday was in the financing of early childhood education. The previous Government gave childcare centres an incentive to employ trained teachers, increasing their grants as they hired a greater proportion of qualified staff.

The Budget has done away with two of the highest bands of subsidy, effectively cutting funds to centres with more than 80 per cent of their staff trained. …

Fewer than half the country’s 4300 centres have more than 80 per cent of their teachers registered yet. The cost blowout over the past five years would have escalated further without the decision National has taken.

While the cut-off will save $295 million, Education Minister Anne Tolley plans to put $107 million back into other early education programmes, $91.8 million of it earmarked for Maori, Pacific and low-income areas. …

Plainly, National does not regard specialist teaching of pre-school children to be quite as important as Labour did. It is probably right. When the previous Government imposed training requirements, there were loud objections from childcare companies that some capable and dedicated staff would be unable to meet these. National does not want to drum them out of the industry.

Nice to see some balance on this issue.

The Press looks at the two Koreas:

Crises between the two Koreas have been so commonly in the headlines for 60 years that it is tempting to dismiss the present tension as a replay of the usual game that will come to nothing. But such is the unpredictability of the North, that would be unwise. …

The South Koreans’ painstaking investigation and the employment of international experts mean the findings are incontrovertible. Thus China, the North’s closest supporter, accepts that the boat went down as a result of a torpedo attack from an armament of the type employed by the North.

The hope must be that the same considered approach will prevail now that the report has been made public, and in this, China’s role is vital.

Its ability to lean on North Korea is the best hope that the hysterical response there to the report will not escalate into another act of military bravado.

North Korea commits an act of war, and then threatens anyone who complains about it. They really are the most thuggish of the various regimes of ill repute.

Seoul wants punishment of the North by way of United Nations sanctions, on the grounds that the incident breached the Korean War armistice and the UN charter.

China’s veto power over a resolution triggering such a response is likely to be used, if only because the North says war will result if sanctions are imposed. Few countries would regret the veto’s use, even if they publicly deplored it.

I would. China’s protection of North Korea emboldens them.

The Dom Post talks finance companies:

Mark Bryers, who is bankrupt in New Zealand but not in Australia, was sentenced last week to 75 hours’ community work and fines of $37,470, plus court costs, after earlier pleading guilty to 34 charges laid by the Economic Development Ministry in relation to the running of Blue Chip. The charges dealt with book-keeping and a failure to attend a creditors’ meeting.

For many of the more than 2000 investors owed a total of $80 million after being caught in the February 2008 collapse of Blue Chip, the sentence is not enough. Some have had their futures destroyed, and their anger was on show at the court, where Bryers was described as scum as he entered. They believe he showed little sign of repentance.

The frustration is at the law’s inability to deliver what the aggrieved would see as justice. Bryers is legally guilty of paperwork failings, but those who lost their money believe they were taken advantage of in a more fundamental way.

That may be true, but the courts and justice system deal, as they should, with legality, not morality.

There is, for example, no suggestion that Mark Hotchin or Eric Watson did anything legally wrong in the collapse of Hanover Finance, which left more than 16,000 investors out of pocket when it froze more than half a billion dollars of assets.

There is morality, and then there is the law.

The ODT also focuses on finance companies:

There were gasps in the court from those investors present, many of whom had lost their houses and savings, when it became evident that Bryers would not serve a custodial sentence.

As he entered the court some had called him “scum”, others “thief” and still more “low life”.

After hearing of his sentence they pronounced their own verdicts outside the court: “he needed to go to jail,” said one; another insisted he should “pay the price”; a third said she felt “absolutely let down by the justice system”. …

Notwithstanding the fact – as pointed out by the ministry lawyer – that the charges were not of fraud, the penalties imposed seem extraordinarily light when set against the loss and suffering of those who invested with Bryers and the Blue Chip group.

Even though they were not of fraud, he still got off lightly.