Types of services
There are many reasons why parents and caregivers may consider early childhood education or care for their child, such as:
- Early childhood education provides a quality environment where your child can learn new skills, get to know other children and enhance their physical, social and intellectual development.
- You may need safe and secure supervision so you can work or study, take a break, or cope with a family illness or other problem.
- Early childhood services also give you an opportunity to meet and talk with other parents.
But how does one chose which service is best for their child? The following information is intended to make that decision easier.
Types of Early childhood services
Home-based care includes services such as Barnardos KidStart. Care and education is provided to small groups of children in private homes. Children from birth to school age can attend all day or for as many hours as needed. Parents are matched with a caregiver in their area (who is often a parent themselves) who is regularly visited and supervised by a trained co-ordinator. Up to four children (including the caregivers own children) are cared for at any one time. An educational programme is followed and caregivers have to meet government standards, including a police check and a check that the home and equipment used are safe.For further information contact KidStart. Call: 0800 KIDSTART
These provide education and care for preschool children of all ages. They include some creches, early learning centres and any licensed centre which is not a playcentre, kindergarten, Kohanga Reo or playgroup. Most offer full-day or sessional (up to four hours) care for a maximum of 25 children under two, or 50 children age two and over, or 25 children of mixed age. The number of staff at each session depends on the size of the group and their ages. At least one staff member must hold a recognised early childhood education qualification. Others may be in training or have no formal training. Children at regular centres need to enrol, whilst casual centres fill-up each day as children arrive. Centres can be privately owned or run by a charity or community group. They may include those at a church, workplace, college or sports centre. Some follow a specific philosophy or programme such as Montessori or Rudolph Steiner.
Kindergartens provide education for children aged two and a half to five years on a sessional basis. Up to 45 children may attend each session. All staff hold a Diploma of Teaching or recognised equivalent - there must be two teachers for 30 children, or three teachers for 45 children. Kindergartens usually have two groups of children - older children attending five mornings a week and younger children for three afternoons a week. Parent committees are in charge of the day-to-day management, with local associations responsible for license and charter requirements.
These focus on learning through play, with strong parent involvement and participation. Sessions are based on the principles of the Early Childhood curriculum, Te WhÄriki. Rules vary from Association to Association as set by parents. Children from birth to school age attend for up to three hours a day, up to five days a week. A maximum group size of no more than 30 children are allowed at any one session. Parents and caregivers of children under two and a half years old must always be present. The minimum staff ratio is one staff member for every five children, but some parents choose to stay during the session. All supervising adults must have some form of playcentre training. Playcentres are run as parent co-operatives, affiliated to local associations which form the New Zealand Playcentre Federation. Most are licensed, although there are a very small percentage that are licensed-exempt.
Te Kohanga Reo
Te Kohanga Reo (language nests) is a MÄori community based education programme in which children are immersed in the whÄnau language from birth, emphasising te reo and whÄnau development. Many are based on a marae. They are the most popular early childhood education service amongst MÄori. Children from birth to school age can attend for up to six hours a day. Maximum group sizes are 25 children under two, 50 children age two and over, or 25 children of mixed age. Staff are trained through the Kohanga Reo National Trust.
Pacific Island language groups and early childhood centres
These offer programmes based on Pacific Island languages and cultural values. They represent most Pacific Island cultures in New Zealand today such as Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Tokelau and Tuvalu. Early childhood centres offer fullday or part-day sessions, with a maximum group size of 25 children under two, 50 children age two and over, or 25 children of mixed age. Language groups are usually more informal playgroups based in a home, church or community centre which meet for up to three half-day sessions a week. At least half the parents must stay during a language group session and are responsible for running the programme.
Community or unlicensed playgroups
Playgroups offer a chance for children to socialise and for parents to meet. Often based at church halls or community centres, sessions last up to three hours and may operate only on certain days. More than half the parents must stay with the children during a session. Community playgroups do not have to be licensed - some work towards licensing, whilst others choose to stay a community parent-child group. Most playgroups are funded by the Ministry of Education.
Private childcare services
There are various services available, most providing more informal or casual childcare in your own home e.g. nannies, au pairs, professional caregivers, nanny agencies and babysitting services. However, many are unregulated, although reputable services may adopt their own industry code of practice or standards. Always check these services thoroughly - do they work to standards, have a complaints procedure? Make sure you get independent references and recommendations.
- If you can, stay with your child for the first few sessions before leaving them alone for the first time. This provides reassurance for the child and also gives you a chance to see how the centre works.
- Leave your child for short times at first. If it is an all day centre, try to be there for lunchtime and when they go to sleep.
- Let your child take a favourite toy to start with, or something of yours that is familiar.
- Say goodbye, reassure your child you will be back later, then leave - hanging around to ‘check’ can confuse your child and sneaking off can leave your child anxious about whether you’ll return.
- Finding and choosing a service
- Government licensing and minimum standards
- Problems with schools and early childhood services
- Childcare subsidy [Family matters/Financial/childcare subsidy.doc]
- Barnardos KidStart or call: 0800 KIDSTART.
- Ministry of Education .
- The Education Review Office .
- EC Leadership (previously known as the NZ Federation of Free Kindergartens), call 09 373 5635.
- NZ Playcentre Federation , call 0800 PLAYNZ (0800 752 969) or visit Early Childhood Council .
- Te Tari Puna Ora O Aotearoa/New Zealand Childcare Association , or call: 0800 CHILDCARE (0800 244 532).
- Te Kohanga Reo National Trust or call: 04 381 8750.
- Pacific Island Early Childhood Council Aotearoa, call: 09 270 2595.