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Emily Writes: Five things you could do instead of being an asshole and writing a stupid asshole comment on a news article about ECE

Making judgemental comments about other parents’ choices doesn’t do anything to help improve early childhood education, says Emily Writes. It just makes you an asshole.

Oh look! A new article about how parents are evil for putting their children in childcare. Every parent apparently has the same choices according to Jeff – some fucking muppet whose adult children loathe him so much they don’t even call at Christmas.

“Why would you even have children if you weren’t going to raise them yourself?” whines Kevin, whose mother worked 50 hour weeks as a cleaner so he could get an education only to waste it commenting on Stuff as an “adult”.

“I would never put my kids in care! I’d miss them too much” sniffs Jana from NobodyGivesAFuckAboutYourOpinionJana.com.

“Parents need to make sacrifices, that’s what we did in our day, just get rid of Sky TV” rants Beryl who is astonishingly still alive at 103 and somehow still able to use the internet but only to comment on piss poor “education” articles in mainstream media.

“I wouldn’t ever put my children into childcare” says craft beer enthusiast and father of zero children Jarrod.

Internet Troll is Mean at the Computer

It’s such a devastating shame that there is literally nothing at all you can do to support parents who are trying to do their best to raise children in a system and society that isn’t family friendly. It’s just so very sad that there’s not one single solitary thing you can do to support New Zealand children to thrive as they grow in this wee country of ours.

Oh wait. There is heaps. HEAPS you can do – if you actually care. Care more than just taking five seconds to grunt out an opinion on a website riddled with spelling errors and clickbait.

Since I am such a patient person, I’ve asked some clever people who know about education to give me five tangible things that they believe you can do if you really want to support children and parents in New Zealand. Because clearly you do, right? Otherwise why did you fart out reckons on that intelligent article “New Study Shows Children In Childcare Grow Gills”?

So, here we go, hold onto your hats:

Recognise that not all parents have the same choices. Then research, support, and encourage social policy that acknowledges this so that we can build a system that evens the playing field.

Almost every article in mainstream media about early childhood education follows the same formula*:

1) Quotes from a middle class Pākehā couple whose children are in early childhood education. They must be made to defend their decision.

2) Quotes from an out of touch study that emphasises choice implying families in New Zealand all have the same choices. Do not quote from any actual research that doesn’t give you pithy soundbites.

3) Quote from the teachers union that is slightly out of context.

4) Quote from that jerk from Family First. Because he has to be asked about everything for some unknown reason.

5) Quote from Hekia Parata saying everything is fine.

6) Finally, title the piece something like “Children in care 800 hours a week, parents don’t give a fuck!” – then sit back and stare at the metrics board while your comments section turns into a cesspit of hate and despair.

All of these articles, and usually all of the quotes in these articles, frame any issue there is with Early Childhood Education in New Zealand as being an issue of choice. Which puts blame, solution, and obligation onto already overburdened parents. It also encourages people to demonise parents and it divides parents into “those whose children are in care” and “those whose children aren’t in care”. This isn’t helpful for anyone. It doesn’t achieve anything.

What you need to do, before you comment, is consider your privilege in being able to make the choices you do – and consider whether you think ALL children deserve quality early childhood education. You then need to consider whether all parents should be forced into early childhood education or whether you think they should be able to make the choice that’s best for their family. Whether that’s to use care or not.

Ask yourself – what support is there available to families with children under three in New Zealand? What is your stance on paid parental leave? If you’re fundamentally opposed to children under the age of one being in care – surely you support extending paid parental leave. What is your stance on mothers being forced to put their children into childcare when their babies are 12 months old on threat of their welfare support being taken from them? If you take the position that children should not be in early childhood education if they’re under three – do you support assistance for parents who can’t make ends meet on one income?

There are heaps of people with great ideas about social policy that supports children. In fact people have dozens of ideas.

Our very own Dr Jess has views on this issue based on understanding the research into ECE in New Zealand: “We need social policy in place to ensure real choices for parents – for example, sufficient financial support for parents of under twos to make other types of care for babies an option (parents, grandparents, part time care) and high quality care available to all not just some. Absolutely under no circumstances should we be forcing parents to put their children in care when they are under three – which is what the current social welfare policy does with parents who have a child while in receipt of a sole parent benefit. Because of the concentration of low quality care in communities more likely to rely on welfare support – this is a recipe for ensuring at risk children are at an even higher risk of poor outcomes. The Government needs to commit to a much more evidence based policy in New Zealand based on the realities of 70% of women parents working, that we have poor quality ECE in too many areas, and that choice and good quality care is the privilege of the middle and wealthy classes.”

*there are exceptions obviously. There are some incredible journalists working in the education round. Kirsty Johnston is frankly some kind of super genius and you should read everything she writes.

Know the evidence: Educate yourself about the state of Early Childhood Education in New Zealand and choose policies to support the system you believe children deserve.

Here are the facts:

  • For near threes and over, the data is clear that high quality ECE is positive. High quality is defined by the iron triangle of quality, teacher qualifications, group-size and teacher child ratios.
  • The data is clear that, for all children of all ages, low quality care is not good at all. During key brain development phases, insufficient attention, less than optimal attachment to an adult (does not need to be a parent), or one-on-one interaction means that the neural pathways of children do not develop optimally. It can be highly stressful for children and parents. This has life-long impacts.
  • Low quality care occurs at higher concentrations in low income communities. The Education Review Office has consistently reported on this – and Kirsty Johnston’s work highlights these findings.

Now that you know this, consider where we are at with funding and support for early childhood education in New Zealand.

Early Childhood Education funding has been frozen for the past six years. Core per-child funding has been frozen. When inflation is taken into account these freezes amount to about a five percent funding reduction since 2010.

Many centres aren’t funded for 100% fully qualified teachers. In 2010 the Government removed the 100 percent qualified teacher funding component, which means services get funded for a maximum 80 percent of staff being professional qualified teachers.

How do you feel about that? Does it change your view? What do you think teacher ratios should be? Do you think centres should have to rely on unqualified staff? Read about what teachers and parents think about the way the Government is handling early childhood education.

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Write to your local MP to find out where they stand on Early Childhood Education and vote accordingly.

NZEI Te Riu Roa has recommended the Government do the following:

  • Restore the 100 percent qualified teacher component to the funding formula, to encourage services to employ qualified staff, and remove a funding stress on those committed to 100 percent qualified now.
  • Restore per-child funding to the inflation-adjusted levels it was set at prior to the 2010 funding freeze, and commit to increasing the level of funding every year in line with real cost increases.
  • Commit to employing 100 percent qualified teaching staff in every ECE service in line with evidence that qualified professional teachers are crucial to providing the best quality ECE.
  • Immediately reduce teacher to child ratios for 0 to 2 year olds to 1:3 and reduce the ratio for 2 to 5 year olds to 1:8.
  • Reduce group sizes – setting a maximum of 15 under 2s and 40 over 2s. In 2011 the government increased the licensed maximum size of ECE centres from 50 to 150 children over two, and up to 25 children under 2.

You might not agree, and that’s fine. But it’s a good starting point to consider what you need to know to form an opinion on ECE in this country. You could ask your local MP and any political parties you’re considering supporting what their stance is on ECE funding, 100% qualified teachers, bulk funding in ECEs, teacher to child ratios, and class sizes. Here’s all the info you need to contact an MP.

Read and share information that lifts the lid on what Early Childhood Education is really like for some children and families.

We know that a lot of children in New Zealand are really thriving in early childhood education in well-resourced environments with good teacher ratios and qualified teachers. We also know, because of a BUNCH of studies, that may kids aren’t – because they are in centres that aren’t well-resourced, don’t have good ratios, and don’t have qualified teachers.

The Minister of Education’s National Advisory Group on Improving Quality for Children Aged Less than Two Years published a report that you can read here. From that report: “Over the period 2001-2011, the number of enrolments across all licensed service types in ECE increased by almost 27% and the number of licensed services increased by over 28%. Enrolments by under one year olds and one year olds have grown by 58% and 51% respectively since 2002 and currently represent 17.5% of total enrolments. Māori and Pasifika make up 22% and 5% of under two enrolments. Alongside growth in both ECE services and enrolments, the average hours spent in ECE for all ages has continued to increase (from around 14 hours weekly in 2001 to 20.4 hours in 2011.”

Why do you think that is? If we know that children are needing to be in care more – for a multitude of reasons – shouldn’t this be a priority for us all to make sure all children and families are getting the same experience?

A recent Education Review Office (ERO) monograph on infants and toddlers found that only half of children under two years old in ECE experience quality settings.

From the Ministry of Education’s report: “We know that Māori and Pasifika children and children from low socio-economic status backgrounds are more likely than other children to experience poor-quality ECE”.

Are we talking about the findings of all of these reports and absolutely insisting that the recommendations are followed? They’re pretty clear…I mean they LITERALLY SAY: “The evidence is clear: adult: child ratios, group size and teacher qualifications are cornerstone indicators for high quality ECE for under twos”. But uh…

Interestingly the report also talked about paid parental leave. Almost like paid parental leave is linked to ECE LOLOLOL Who knew? “While acknowledging this is outside of scope, the group would like it noted that it would be ideal if paid parental leave was extended to provide families and whānau the choice to begin their early childhood experience by being able to be more available to their young infant at home.”

Ask questions of others, start a conversation, and stop being a dickhead.

Before you comment on a dumb article and say a dumb thing – have you considered talking to the parents around you? Do you know what choices parents are making, why they are making the choices they are making, and most crucially if they even have a choice to begin with? This includes parents who feel they have to comment on the choices other parents make. If you are able to make the choice not to put your child into care, and you make that choice, I assume you’re doing that because it’s the best choice for your family. I don’t assume you’re doing it to get at me. Parents don’t make choices at each other – so we have to resist the framing of parenting choice as being for or against when it should just be about doing what’s best for you. I want you to have the best resources available to do what’s right for your family, I’d hope you’d want the same for me.

It’s vital that people look outside their bubble and see the reality of childcare debate. Beyond sensational headlines and up-arse blog posts there are parents who are just trying to get by and they’re struggling. They’re trying to do what’s best for their children and instead of getting support, they’re getting vitriol and judgement. Worst still – that’s all they’re getting. I don’t believe that’s the society we want – it’s not good for parents or children.

I have my children in early childhood education because I believe it works really well for them. I passionately believe early childhood education SHOULD WORK WELL FOR ALL KIDS if their parents choose (really, truly, freely choose) for them to be in early childhood education. If you believe that – talk to parents and talk to teachers and consider what you can do, what you want to do, to make the system work for everyone.

Don’t be an asshole.


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