Outlook is bleak for the early childhood education sector

Press Release – Child Forum Research Network

The early childhood education sector is not doing well, according to a new survey conducted by ChildForum. The survey asked people involved with early childhood education services if things were currently going well or badly for their service and whether …Survey finds the outlook is bleak for the early childhood education sector

1 November 2011

The early childhood education sector is not doing well, according to a new survey conducted by ChildForum.

The survey asked people involved with early childhood education services if things were currently going well or badly for their service and whether they thought the situation would improve or worsen in the next 12 months.

Overall slightly more respondents (59%) thought things were going well, but of more concern was that more than two-fifths (41%) said things were currently going badly for their service. Teacher-led services were particularly struggling with 61% of respondents from teacher-led services saying they were unhappy with the current situation.

A lack of funding was the biggest concern. While some services had benefitted from the recent changes to the qualified teacher funding which reduced the percentage of qualified teachers a service is required to have to 80%, many reported funding losses and said they were now finding it hard to make ends meet and were being forced to cut extra benefits such as providing lunches or excursions and in the worst cases reducing staff levels.

The recent earthquakes were highlighted by many Canterbury-based respondents who were struggling with repair bills or being forced to move to new premises and coping with falling rolls as families moved out of Christchurch or to other areas of the city.

Many respondents reported that these worries were leading to higher stress levels among staff and taking the focus away from what should be the sector’s core function – caring for and educating children.

Worryingly few respondents were optimistic for the future. Only 4% said they thought the situation would improve in the next 12 months, compared to 40% who thought things would only get worse. There were fears that the government would make more changes to policy particularly in light of the recent ECE Taskforce Report, creating further disruption for the sector and many forecasted further funding cuts.

These feelings reflected the results of a wider survey which asked people to name the one thing government should do for early childhood education

The most common responses were:

• Restore previous funding for, and the target of, 100% qualified registered teachers in teacher-led ECE services
• Focus ECE Policy not on saving costs or benefiting ECE providers but on ensuring the best standards for children alongside bringing in regular inspection.
• Provide certainty and consistency in funding and support for all ECE service types, thereby taking stress off the sector and retaining choices for parents

ChildForum national director Dr Sarah Farquhar said: “These results send a clear message that those involved in early childhood education are worried for the future. The sector is fed up with constant changes to funding and policy and wants a clear direction for the future which allows services to get on with what is most important – the care and education of our society’s youngest members – rather than worrying about what the government is going to do next.”

• The survey had 241 responses from early childhood education service owners and managers, teachers and parents. The responses came from people involved in teacher-led services, home-based service and parent or community-led services.
• The wider survey had 300 responses from those working in the ECE sector, parents, community members, academics and child and family professionals.

The survey report is available online at ChildForum.com.

About ChildForum
ChildForum aims to present fresh thinking about early childhood care and education. Our members come from across the Early Childhood Education (ECE) sector, including owners/managers and teachers from for-profit and not-for-profit centres, kindergartens, Playcentres, language nests, and home-based services. Members also include parents, education researchers, health professionals and child advocates. ChildForum has no political leaning and does not lobby from any one established position. Instead our aim is to present our members with balanced information on the current issues and accurately reflect their views on such issues, whatever they may be. This enables ChildForum to represent a wide range of voices and to reflect views from across the ECE sector. Our website is www.childforum.com

ENDS

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