Cases of rough handling, inadequate supervision and children going unfed have surfaced in a horrific catalogue of complaints against early childhood education services.

The Ministry of Education released a report this morning featuring all the complaints about early childhood education (ECE) received in 2017.

They received 339 complaints about early learning services and investigated 297 of them - the further 42 did not require an investigation.

Of those investigated, 166 were upheld, which means that standards were either not met or the investigation found there were areas which needed improvement.


Here are some of the cases that were investigated:

• Service informed the Ministry after a teacher roughly handled a child, resulting in a dislocated shoulder.

• NZ Police notified Ministry of an infant who was shaken while at service. Educator was charged and sentenced.

• Children were force-fed and concerns about the teaching practice by the head teacher were raised. Two staff members suspended and subsequently resigned.

• A staff member was stood down after arriving at the service under the influence of alcohol.

• A teacher was dismissed after pulling the chair out from under a child.

The Ministry suspended the licences of six services, cancelled nine services and changed 31 services' licences to provisional after a number of complaints.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry said it would not be releasing the names of the centres.


Eight more complaints were received last year than in 2016, but the number of upheld complaints remained largely the same, the Ministry said.

"Every complaint we receive is treated seriously," Deputy Secretary Sector Enablement and Support Katrina Casey said.

"We assess each complaint, and if a service falls short of the standards we impose conditions for improvement or shut the service down."

Complaints stemmed from children suffering broken bones, service work conditions, how they are managed by staff, and the use of inappropriate language.

Other cases of interest featured a service temporarily being placed on a provisional licence after a child died shortly after being picked up from care.

A service also reported a "near-miss" after a child climbed into a storage container and was accidentally locked inside it for a short time.

The child was soon discovered and was distressed but had no physical injuries and recovered quickly after some care from staff.

Another service's licence was cancelled after a complaint alleged a staff member hurt a child through rough handling.

The same complaint alleged that children had left the premises unattended, children went unfed and there was inadequate supervision.

Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand praised the Ministry for listing and taking every complaint seriously.

"It goes without saying that any practice having a negative impact on tamariki is totally unacceptable," Kathy Wolfe, the chief executive of the early childhood lobby group and teacher training provider, said.

However, she said the report also showed parents can have confidence the majority of Kiwi youngsters were in good hands, given 97 per cent of licensed ECE services meet or exceed Ministry of Education standards.

NZ Educational Institute Te Riu Roa president Lynda Stuart also welcomed the report, saying any case of substandard care of our youngest children was distressing.

"We're continuing to lobby for increased funding for centres with 100 per cent qualified teaching staff, better teacher-to-child ratios, smaller group sizes and increased operational funding, which all contribute to the quality of ECE services."

Early Childhood Council chief executive Peter Reynolds said there should be no tolerance for services that put children at risk so it was good to see the Ministry of Education being responsive to complaints.

"It is important parents, whanau and caregivers can have confidence in the systems and the ECE services they choose," he said.

By law, ECE services are required to have processes in place so that parents can complain or ask questions if they're not happy with their child's education and care.

"Most complaints can be managed at the service level but parents, whānau and caregivers are encouraged to come to us if they are not satisfied with the response from a service or if the complaint is potentially serious.

"We continue to look at ways to improve our management of complaints and to use the insights from our investigations to improve our services.

"Nothing is more important than the safety and wellbeing of our children," Casey said.