There is increasing concern that the Government is intervening too much in the early childhood education sector with just under a half of services saying things are going badly and only a handful feeling optimistic that things will improve.
A ChildForum survey asked more than 240 early childhood education services how things were going and whether or not they expected improvement in the next 12 months.
While the majority - 59 per cent of services - said things were going well, 41 per cent weren't as happy, saying things were going badly for them.
Optimism for the future was low. Less than 4 per cent of services thought their situation would improve in the next 12 months and that nothing would get worse. Thirty per cent thought some things would improve while others would get worse and 40 per cent thought things were only going to get worse. The rest were uncertain about how the future would go or didn't want to comment.
ChildForum national co-ordinator Dr Sarah Farquhar said the survey showed that increasing Government intervention in the sector was having a largely negative effect on individual services.
"The sector overall ... is worried about further changes such as those signalled by the Government's ECE Taskforce report."
The taskforce, which was established last year to review funding and set priorities for the next few years, recommended a number of changes for the sector.
Last month, following a consultation period on the Taskforce report, Education Minister Anne Tolley said that the funding system was to be changed, the curriculum reviewed and a number of sector advisory groups would be established.
Dr Farquhar said teacher-led services were more likely to report a negative situation than parent-led and home-based services.
Those who felt things weren't going well usually attributed concerns to funding, policy and government changes. Many said they had to rebudget and cut costs because of funding cuts. As a result many were forced to cut services such as providing lunches or excursions. Some struggled with increased competition and were suffering from falling rolls.
How are things going at the moment?
* Well 59 per cent
* Badly 41 per cent
Do you think things will improve or worsen in the next 12 months?
* Just under 4 per cent said their situation would improve and things wouldn't get worse.
* 30 per cent thought some things would improve while others would get worse.
* 40 per cent felt things would only get worse.
* 26 per cent didn't want to comment or couldn't predict how things would go.