Sonya is a social issues reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Concern over unqualified educators

Tauranga mum Janine Fox-Mason, pictured here with children Daniel Mason, 4 and Hannah Mason, 6, thinks early childhood education is about more than just a piece of paper. Photo / Joel Ford
Tauranga mum Janine Fox-Mason, pictured here with children Daniel Mason, 4 and Hannah Mason, 6, thinks early childhood education is about more than just a piece of paper. Photo / Joel Ford

Tauranga parents need to ensure they send their pre-school children to qualified educators, early childhood education leaders say.

However, others feel that experience in the industry is more important.

In 2010, the Government funded an extra $91.8 million over four years to boost early childhood education participation rates. This was upped to a further $172.5 million in this year's budget.

Two early childhood national associations, Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa/NZ Childcare Association and Early Childhood Council, worried this push could lead to parents choosing untrained educators or low-quality services.

Early Childhood Council chief executive Peter Reynolds said it was important for the overall teaching at an early childhood centre to be lead by someone qualified.

"We have a concern that the push at the moment, together with a cut to revenue, is leading to a growth in unqualified early childhood services which we don't think is sensible or safe.

"A child needs to learn the basics around reading and writing and that's just not going to happen. We're worried that parents are just going to choose the cheap option without the information in front of them."

Mr Reynolds said there needed to be a distinction between early childhood services and child-minding services.

He said there were a lot of good services in the Bay of Plenty but parents needed to satisfy themselves about the services that they were getting from their provider.

Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa/NZ Childcare Association acting chief executive Jane Ewens said it was critical early childhood teachers were qualified, just as it was critical for a primary teacher, lawyer or carpenter to be qualified.

"Early childhood centres are not simply a place to drop off your children to be looked after for the day.

"Qualified early childhood teachers are intentional teachers. The education they receive while completing their qualification helps them to understand how children learn and how best to facilitate this learning."

However, Porse Tauranga consultant Hilary Fraser said a qualification did not determine how good an educator was.

"It's not the be all and end all. What's important is respect, love and empathy for children. That can come from ladies who have worked for a daycare centre and haven't got a certificate, or from mothers and grandmothers with a lot of innate experience."

Mrs Fraser said PORSE's educators were all put through a rigorous interview process and were strongly encouraged to study towards an NZQA L3 early childhood certificate.

Tauranga mother Janine Fox-Mason said she thought what made a good teacher came down to experience and personality.

"Qualifications mean nothing to the child. We chose our day care not based on price, but on availability. We also wanted to support our local community."

Mrs Fox-Mason said experience was definitely important in an educator.

Early childhood qualifications

Slightly over 71 per cent of teachers in teacher-led early childhood centres in the Bay of Plenty area are qualified, consistent with the national average (based on Ministry of Education July 2012 data). This increases to 76 per cent in Tauranga itself.

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