Focus on quality ECE much needed



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Fiona Hughes says the Ministry’s focus on quality in early childhood education is long overdue, but welcome.

Fiona Hughes, Chief Operations Officer, BestStart Educare

Fiona HughesThe Government’s ECE focus has till now been on the participation of children who are not attending preschool, but having achieved this goal their future focus will change. There has been much said about the variable quality of early childhood education and, indeed, we have purchased many centres over the years and the quality of curriculum, facilities and resources has left much to be desired. As an organisation, BestStart has had a focus on improving outcomes for children and has invested heavily in improving quality. 

The Ministry of Education’s current focus on quality is long overdue but clearly welcome. The Government has held the purse strings tightly on funding increases and small centres have struggled to offer good professional development to their teachers. A direct result of ongoing professional development, mentoring and good support improves quality dramatically. Centres should be better equipped with robust systems, self-review and checks to ensure standards are not only maintained but improved upon. Ministry of Education-funded professional development must be appropriately targeted to gain quality improvements. 

Many centres cost cut as funding is held static and parents pay less and less for their child’s education and care. Most often, the cost cutting occurs in professional development and resourcing.  Without effective tools and resources teachers will do the best they can, but it is unlikely the quality of what is being delivered to our children will be improved.

Preschool sets the educational platform for our youngest learners as they prepare to enter the formal stages of their education. We know that children who have had a solid, quality preschool education are best placed to be successful at school, with their relationships, and in their careers. It stands to reason that early childhood education is adequately funded and supported in order to obtain optimum outcomes for all children.

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