Thank you for your email about children enrolled in school attending early learning services.
We share your views about the importance of parent and whānau involvement in parent-led early learning services. Parent-led services provide parents and whānau with the opportunity to learn more about parenting, develop social and community networks and build greater confidence, as well as lead the education and care of their children.
We have not changed our stance on children enrolled in school, or those participating in home education, not being able to attend early learning services. The recent change to our website was not a change in policy but rather, clarification to make it clear that children participating in home education are also not able to attend early learning services.
Children enrolled in school/home education
Early learning services are set up to provide education and care to pre-school children and operate with a set of rules to ensure the specific needs of younger children are met. As you will know, playcentre needs to meet the same requirements as other early childhood education centres.
One of the requirements is that the premises and resources are kept for the exclusive use of children participating in the early learning programme. This is about making sure the environment is kept safe for young children, that they have space to explore and that their learning opportunities are not impacted by older children, who generally operate at a different pace and on a different scale to infants and younger children. This means that children enrolled in school, or those participating in home education, cannot regularly join in the activities offered at an early learning service during licensed hours.
I understand that this won’t be the answer you are looking for. However, the legislation which dictates how early learning services operate, does not allow for children enrolled in school, or those participating in home education, to attend early learning services, aside from certain exemptions.
Thank you for your email, and for clarifying that this is not a recent change but rather clarification on the website.
I have read all of the relevant legislation and policy documents that I am aware of in regards to ECE in a setting such as Playcentre in their entirety – please let me know if there are any I have missed. My understanding is that the regulatory framework consists of 3 guiding documents, namely:
- The Education and Training Act 2020
- Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008
- The Ministry’s document titled “Licensing Criteria for Early Childhood Education & Care Services 2008 and Early Childhood Education Curriculum Framework”(as amended May 2016)
In reviewing the regulatory framework, I note that there is clear guidelines on who can be enrolled in an ECE – ie, 0-6 year olds, excluding 5 year olds who are enrolled in school and not under a transition plan. However, there is nothing which states who can be present (or not) at an ECE in regards to families of the enrolled children, with the exception of excluding parents who are a danger to the children.
On the contrary, parents have right of entry to an ECE where their child is enrolled/present (other than the exception noted), and there are a number of places in the regulations where specific allowance is made for the possibility that non-enrolled students may be present in the care of their parents. I pointed out a couple of them in my last email. Here’s another:
Schedule 2 of the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008 sets out the adult-to-child ratios for early childhood education and care centres. Schedule 3 sets out the service sizes for the same. Notable point in the definitions at the end of each Schedule:
“In the case of a centre...., every child present (including the child of the service provider or person responsible or supervisor or staff member) of any age also counts as a child.” (Emphasis mine)
The regulations specifically allow for the fact that other children, particularly the children of responsible adults helping run the service, may also be present (not enrolled), and that they may be of “any age.”
One of the understandings behind this is simply this: parents are responsible for the supervision of their children who are not old enough to be left on their own. If those children are not enrolled in school (and thus attending and supervised there), then they are likely to be with the parents who may be present at the centre – this applies to both children who are pre-school age and not enrolled in the centre, and those who are 6 or over and not required to attend school during that time. The writing of the Acts concerned allows for that. There is no legislation or regulation that says that they cannot be with the parents who are responsible for them. To exclude those children from being present at appropriate times is to also exclude their parents. and by extension in the case of Playcentre to exclude their enrolled siblings, as Playcentre does not provide a drop-and-go care service.
No one is arguing about the fact that the ECE centre is intended to be for the use of the enrolled preschoolers, and that they should be the focus of the program, resources etc, and their learning and engagement should not be interfered with by older children who may be present. However, this does not mean that legally other children may not be present, when they are being supervised by their own parents or caregivers, whose responsibility it would be to also ensure those older children do not adversely effect the experience or learning of the enrolled children. Bear in mind that most older children will not be able to be present because they are required to be attending school at that time; we’re talking about a very small number of children scattered across the country – Playcentres would not be overrun with older children! For those families, though, this is hugely important.
You stated in your email that “the legislation which dictates how early learning services operate, does not allow for children enrolled in school, or those participating in home education, to attend early learning services, aside from certain exemptions” - please point out which part of the legislation prevents children in the care of their parents from being present at an ECE in which their sibling is enrolled, unless due to the fact that they are required to attend school at that time? I cannot find any such regulations.
Rather, this would appear to be a case of the Ministry making decisions which are in line with their own thinking, but are extra-legal; not governed or sanctioned by law. This is overreach and would, I believe, not stand up to judicial review (unless, of course, I have missed a pertinent regulation somewhere).
I’d like to request, please, that the Ministry have their legal team review this situation more thoroughly, taking into account the matters I have raised in my emails.
Please let me know the outcome.
Government Liaison: National Council of Home Educators of NZ (NCHENZ)