July 4, 2024
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MoE running roughshod over ECE centres - Manawatu kindy to be closed without valid reason

A rural Manawatu early childhood centre is set to lose its operating licence on Monday for alleged breaches of regulations, in a long-running case of the Ministry of Education singling out a vibrant centre with strong community support, according to the Early Childhood Council. The Ministry points, primarily, to alleged breaches of curriculum regulations.

The decision to close County Kindy comes after an Education Review Office, then problematic Ministry of Education investigations over the last two years. Each time investigators found a new issue, the centre did everything they could to resolve it, in line with how other ECE centres are operating.

“If the Ministry can close Country Kindy like this, then many other centres aren’t safe. This is why the Early Childhood Council needed to get involved,” said ECC CEO Simon Laube.

“In our view, the Ministry appears to be acting on undisclosed or unsubstantiated concerns, as an independent ECE specialist found no evidence of curriculum non-compliance in their urgent assessment this week. Effective support is the solution for curriculum concerns, not cancellation of the licence. The Ministry has completely disregarded the damage their decision causes for children and families – the loss of the centre they belong to will have a huge impact.”

“It’s heartbreaking. I offer unique rural living for children, it’s like they don’t want that, they want the children to be just a number. I have families travelling for up to an hour every day for the opportunity to experience rural life, the fresh air and space we offer. It’s been really hard,” said Fiona Zwart, Country Kindy’s owner.

We’ve been blindsided and shocked by this,” said Michelle Webb, a parent with a child at Country Kindy. “How can the Ministry close this down without even speaking to the parents here? If you were making such a major decision like closing a centre down, wouldn’t you talk to the people affected?”

The Ministry makes no allegations that Country Kindy poses health and safety risks to children, and their safety checking processes, the regulations where centres most commonly get into trouble, aren’t in question,.

The Ministry’s decision will leave parents from Hunterville, Foxton, Bulls and Eketahuna urgently looking for alternative childcare next week, even though no-one else offers the unique rural, farm-based philosophy Country Kindy provides in the area.

“The Ministry’s application of the regulations is unreasonable – they’ve gone outside their role. Country Kindy have responded reasonably to all of the Ministry’s requests and we consider they are operating within the regulations. Small providers like Country Kindy are easy targets – they have no ability to stand up against a Ministry this powerful.”

“Country Kindy is totally committed to offering and continuing to progress the local curriculum they offer. The Ministry of Education needs to reconsider its decision and stop the closure process. Otherwise, parents will have to find another early childhood centre next week, teachers and other staff will lose their jobs and the community and children will lose a great little centre they adore, for zero public benefit,” said Simon Laube.

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