Maori and Pasifika early education growth pleases minister despite quality concerns

The Education Minister has welcomed an increase in Maori and Pasifika children participating in early childhood education - despite ongoing concerns about quality.

Hekia Parata yesterday released statistics saying the Maori participation rate was 93.8 per cent, up 3.3 percentage points since 2012, and the Pasifika rate was 91, up 4.8 percentage points in the same time frame.

The national rate is now 96.1 per cent. The Government has a target of 98 per cent participation by 2016.

"The increase in the enrolment rate is especially pleasing for Maori and Pasifika," Ms Parata said.

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"We know that good quality early childhood education helps kids achieve at school and beyond.

"However, there's still work to be done. The kids we haven't reached yet are generally the ones from vulnerable communities, who stand to benefit most from ECE."

Earlier a Herald investigation into ECE participation found the Government was continuing with aggressive participation programmes despite widespread concerns about quality.

The reports, including briefings from ERO, the Education Ministry and sector advisory groups, warned that quality needed to be lifted, as poor quality ECE could be harmful and delay children's development. Those most at risk were Maori, Pasifika and those in low socio-economic areas.

One report said a large number of services did not deliver culturally responsive education. It suggested up to 27,000 Maori children had variable quality ECE and 8200 Pasifika were in non-responsive services.

After yesterday's release of statistics, Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty said the minister was deliberately putting children in the most vulnerable communities at risk from low-quality ECE services.

"She was warned these kids are at risk from low-quality services, but she's recruiting them anyway."

"Rather than targeting children in vulnerable communities for enrolment in early childhood enrolments, the minister should stop recruiting them till she knows there are good-quality services for them."

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When questioned previously about quality concerns, Ms Parata said the services were of a high quality despite saying in 2013 that there was "further work to do in raising the quality of governance, leadership and teaching in some areas."