Nicola Willis on ECE

writes in the NZ Herald:

A shiver went down my spine as I read Deborah Hill Cone’s opinion piece demonising early childhood education. Has she been into an early learning centre lately? Has she talked to families about the choices we make for the care of our kids?

If we are to believe her, all daycare is soul-destroying and parents who choose to use it are selfish and uncaring. Cue the eye-rolling of thousands of parents and teachers.

I had a similar reaction to DHC’s column.

We have Benjamin in an ECE for 24 hours a week. It is not a factory farm. There are only eight under twos there and it has been great for him. He has made friends with some of the other kids, he gets to do all sorts of activities we wouldn’t be able to do at home, and learns lot of stuff also (no it isn’t a baby sitting service – it is educational).

The teachers are awesome and I love hearing from them at the end of the day what Ben has been up to.

For us, ECE is the opposite of soul destroying.

I’m a mum to four kids aged 8,7, 5 and 2. Each attended a so-called “factory farm” for a period of their early years, or as we choose to see it: they attended an centre. We continue to drop off our youngest daughter at one each day.

So I’m familiar with the knot of worry that accompanies families’ choices about childcare arrangements. Believe me I’ve sweated this stuff in the small hours. Am I a bad mother for returning to work? Will my children be scarred by being cared for by people who are initially strangers?

The first few weeks are tough especially when your kid gets upset as you leave them behind. But it normally only lasts for a few minutes. And now Ben looks forward to going.

In my role as National’s Early Childhood Education spokesperson I’ve had the privilege of visiting plenty of childcare centres and talking to lots of parents, teachers and experts about the choices families make about care for children under 6.

Quality early childhood education won’t damage your child’s psyche. Years of research and experience have given us clear evidence about this. What kids need is warm, responsive relationships with their caregivers – whether at home or elsewhere.

Quite the opposite of damaging, quality ECE can help your child for later in life.


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