Rana became an early childhood teacher because she wanted to help give children the best start in life.

But less than three years after graduating, she is ready to quit, frustrated with working conditions that mean she can't give all the children in her care the time they need.


"Some days we are so busy that we can't change nappies for two hours," she says.


"Sometimes, the children want you to sit down and play with them. But the environment is such that if you sit down you can't see everyone. I feel bad because we are so busy. Because the children love us. But because we are short of staff ... we don't always have the time."

Growing call for early education inquiry
Early childcare services red-flagged
Fears profit put before kids
Teachers' union calls for early childhood ed inquiry

Rana - which isn't her real name - works in a childcare centre in Auckland. They can have up to 28 children aged 2 to 5 in the centre at one time. There are three teachers. All are registered. The centre runs all day - some children are there from 7am until 5.

She wanted to tell the Herald what working in an understaffed, poorly-managed centre was like.

"If one teacher leaves the room then we are short-staffed. So whenever someone is on non-contact time, we only have two people in the room. That's when we can't change the nappies, because then there's not enough teachers. But sometimes, we will do it anyway, because it needs to be done," she says.

"We love it when students come in because then there are enough people. Otherwise we can't do professional development." She says the centre provides lunch twice-a-day, first for the small children, who then go to have a sleep and then the older children. Those tasks take away from interacting with the kids again. Sleeping children have to be checked every seven minutes, so once again they are left with only two teachers on the floor.

"So sometimes that we struggle to get everything done but we wouldn't reveal that. The parents don't know what's happening. They don't know we aren't always on the floor." She says in terms of learning, the teachers do a good job. They teach numeracy and literacy and Te Reo Maori. There are lots of toys and games and a sandpit and a rope swing.

However, the environment is stressful. Teachers are on their feet all day, there are often no breaks and the management is poor.


"Our shift times change all the time - you get there at 8 and they say, you're not starting until 9am. We get told off. Sometimes I feel like I don't have the right to talk." Rana has decided to leave, in the hope she will find work at a better centre.

"The kids are really good. They know they can come to us when they are upset. I really love playing with them. That's the best thing about the job. But it would be good to give them extra time, you know? We need to guide them. This is the foundation time. I still remember my kindergarten teacher. I want them to do the same. I want them to grown up and remember me and think 'I had a good early chilhood'."