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ECNZ says ‘about time’ for early learning investments

06 Oct 15

New Zealand’s early learning sector is worthy of investment and the Advisry Group of Learning report is more than welcome, says the Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand (ECNZ).

Education Minister Hekia Parata released the report last week, which lays out recommendations for early childhood education (ECE) investments. [link to this story: Changes to NZ's early education could require significant investment]

Nancy Bell, ECNZ chief executive, says the standout recommendations in the report were around the development of web-based resources to support Te Whāriki (the early childhood curriculum), strengthening transitions from ECE to school, professional development programmes for ECE leaders and early years teachers, and early learning clusters and teacher inquiry time.

Digitisation

Members welcome the updating and digitising of Te Whāriki and the development of modular web-based resources.

‘Te Whāriki was developed 20 years ago and is highly regarded internationally for its visionary bicultural framework but it is timely to update it,’ says Bell.

“As the report states, childhood has changed since 1996 and the curriculum document needs to reflect this.”

Transitioning

Bell says while most ECE services and schools already have transition policies, it is necessary to make these mandatory, and about time they be strengthened and reviewed.

‘It’s great to see this focus on transition to school – a time of opportunity and also risk for a child.

“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 says.

Professional development

The report recommends significant investment in professional development to strengthen curriculum implementation and learning continuity across the early years, and this is something the sector has been seeking for some time, according to Bell.

‘ECE has been largely ignored when it comes to Government’s systemic investment in professional leadership. Investing in leaders is a cost-effective way to strengthen learning.

‘Recommendations related to shared professional development early years teachers (ECE and primary) are also welcomed.

“We understand that resourcing for these programmes is being considered as part of government’s overall PLD investments and await further information.

“There is no doubt that resourcing in PLD will be key to achieving shifts in practice,” she says.

Early-learning clusters

According to Bell, ECNZ welcomes the recommendations on early-learning clusters and teacher inquiry.

“Sharing of best practice that supports strong learning outcomes is consistent with international best practice,” she says.

Bell says Minister Parata has advised that she intends to use the recently established Communities of Learners as the primary vehicle for bringing educators together.

According to Bell, funding will be required for ECE services to be able to release teachers to take part.

The report also recommends that qualified teachers have paid released time for two hours per week for inquiry that supports children’s learning.

Bell says, ‘While most employers would agree that this is highly desirable, the provision of additional non-contact time would be impossible for many employers unless it were government funded.

“Employers are already struggling to make ends meet and this is unlikely to be affordable without significant increases to funding rates.’

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