ERO reports highlight need for early learning regulation overhaul

12 December 2022

New Zealand’s early learning regulations have become a punishment regime, without support and recognition for centres who strive to exceed minimum standards says the Early Childhood Council.

Current regulations tightly control premises, sleep spaces, health and safety, food, drink, governance and management to such an extent that recent Education Review Office reports found 41% of centres reviewed were found non-compliant with the regulations.

“Non-compliance rates have become so high that we have to ask if the regulatory regime is still working – it’s become a case of ‘the more you look, the more you’ll find’. Unwitting parents relying on non-compliance reports or licence notifications could easily withdraw their child from a good centre and take them to one that’s worse,” said ECC CEO Simon Laube.

“Parents and centres need a better system that puts children at its centre - important quality indicators like centres providing more teachers to care for babies than the government funds simply aren’t recognised in the current regulations.”

The ECC says unless the Ministry moves away from just policing minimum standards and starts rewarding centres that excel, every interaction between the regulator and centres will be high-stakes and opportunities for early intervention and improvement will be lost.

“We need a regulatory regime that’s efficient to administer, not the regulation industry we have today. Standards should be clear and measurable, as tracking compliance and performance against them is an important part of a working system.”

“Clear regulatory principles should be agreed first with early learning sector leadership input, not just the government. Expertise from areas like child health, where we can also make gains, should be part of the discussion,” said Simon Laube.

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