Under the previous government, like the current Labour-led
coalition, there is plenty happening in education and in particular in the ECE
space. We had the review of Te WhÄriki,
the introduction of Communities of Learning, the
review-you-have-when-you're-not-having-a-review of Learning Support (used to be
Special Education), introduction of the Food Act and Health and Safety at Work
Act and the Education Council, and the ill-fated Review of ECE Funding, amongst
other activities. Nowadays, we have all
sorts of reviews, including the development of a revised strategic plan for the
ECE sector, review of home-based ECE services; plus current issues with
proposed changes to employment law, Tomorrow's Schools and more.
The previous government had a massive focus on increasing
participation in ECE. They had the
Better Public Service goals and within that the goal of increasing ECE
participation to 98%. We got close, in
fairness - 96 point diddle-diddle percent.
The one criticism of the goal was the absence of any focus on
quality. It was a "bums-on-seats"
goal. Combined with the effect of the
funding cuts, and we saw evidence of services under pressure, but with
increasing numbers of children attending at an ever-decreasing per-child rate
The point of my re-describing all of this is that it is a
summary of change. Change that not
always has anything to do with advancing quality in our sector, but just
change. The volume of change is significant
and unsurprisingly, plenty of people working in our sector try to resist
aspects of this change or at least struggle with it and sometimes demonstrate
signs of change-related stress.
Officials and politicians need to take note of this. Change is one thing. Quality improvement is quite another.
It's not that we do not welcome change in an ever-changing
world, but that consideration of the longer-term goal must be a factor. Introducing a significant number of changes
in our sector does not mean quality is improving.
The last two governments have both called for improvements
in quality. In many ways, this call is
made without much basis on a true appreciation of what is actually happening in
our sector. Sometimes the call for
improved quality is based on research (such as improved ratios); and sometimes
it is based on the fear of something bad rather than reality (like regulating
The Labour-led coalition government is presently leading a
revision of the ECE Strategic Plan. Like
any strategic plan, this sets a vision for the future and how we can all work
together to achieve this. The vision, a
desirable future for quality ECE provision, needs to think about the role
quality improvement will play, rather than just change for change's sake. To improve quality in our sector need not
involve big bang ideas that are likely to be overturned by the next change in
government when it comes along. It needs
to be incremental; it needs to be focused on quality learning outcomes for the
child, and not additional compliance for the sake of it.
What do you think should be in the ECE Strategic Plan? Do we need more big changes? Or a focus on incremental quality