Saturday, May 22, 2010
Allan Peachey: Is this Dumb or What?
I recently had the opportunity to visit a recently open early childhood education centre run by a charitable trust in one of the poorest communities in New Zealand. It is licensed for 113 youngsters and currently has just over 100. It takes children from a few months to school starting age. What I saw impressed me, not least the expectation that children moving on to school should know the alphabet and be able to count up to and back from 20. Emphasis was also being put on children getting into the habit of working independently regardless of what else was going on around them. All good stuff.
But in talking to staff several regulatory things were brought to my attention that just had me shaking my head in wonderment. And what nonsensical regulation does is divert teachers’ attention away from children and onto paper.
Take this for example.
No centre can be licensed for more than 50 children, or in the case of children under two, for 25 children. So a centre with just over 100 children will require three licences, particularly if it has under two year olds. Such centres require what is called multiple licences. Why not just licence a centre once and save a lot of hassle? Perhaps because the regulations go back many years to a time when early childhood education looked very different from what it does today. Perhaps because it takes more bureaucrats to issue a centre three licences than it does to just issue one. And something else I should point out: the centre that I visited is in one purpose-built building. It is possible to move from one licence to another by just walking across the room. And what’s more, every centre has to be re-licensed every six years. So multi-licences per centre means many more centres to be re-licensed. More work for the bureaucrats, more paperwork for the teachers.
And then there is the Education Review Office, charged with reviewing early childhood centres and schools. The thought that New Zealanders might be sleeping a little easier in their beds at night worries me. But that’s another story. When ERO carries out a review it does a separate review for each licence, even though the centre is in the one building.
A one-licence facility would be so much more efficient to review. The duplication of reviews takes time and costs money.
So each licence in the same building under one structure of governance has to go through a separate ERO review, a separate audit process, a separate licensing process and separate funding applications. All this does is multiply paperwork. It makes the administration of a multi-licence centre (one with more than 50 youngsters) more time consuming and costly than is necessary. I would need to be convinced that children are being kept safer, being better supervised and better taught under multiple licences than they would be in a one-licence facility. To date nobody has been able to convince me of that.
And what about the impact on teachers working in a multiple licence facility? Under current legislation qualified early childhood centre staff are required to sign on and off licences as they move from one part of the single facility to another. What a challenge (on a daily basis) and a distraction to teachers that must be. Teachers I spoke to told me they hate it. They worry that they might forget to sign on/off as they move between licences and the criticism that will result from auditors. I am told by teachers that auditors just cannot grasp the reality that a teacher can be signed on, on two or three licences on the same day, even if not at the same time. And that comes from working in one building when the simple act of going from one space to the next can involve moving across licences.
And even more important – what about the impact on children? To move children between licences as they get older can be an administrative nightmare for parents and staff. For example a parent has to sign new enrolment forms each time their child progresses to an older age group. And don’t even start me on what happens, or more to the point, cannot happen, when a younger sibling wants to go and see an older brother or sister in the same facility, but in a different licence. So much for family bonding.
I could go on, but you get the picture.
The answer is easy. Get rid of multiple licences and save a lot of time and money. If you disagree with me, convince me that the removal of multiple licences will compromise the quality of care and teaching that children receive.
A job for superman? Probably not. But where is the Minister for Regulatory Reform?
at 9:35 AM