Early childhood teaching is seized by madness

Dunno what the ministry mandarins think they are up to, but Alf is astonished to learn Anna Farrell’s story of being forced out of early childhood education.

It’s a story of a mindless adherence to a strategy crafted some eight years ago, and involves – as these things too often do in the education business – an obstinate teachers’ union.

Farrell holds a bachelor of education degree in primary teaching and has worked in early childhood centres for 16 years.

Let’s repeat that. She has worked in early childhood centres for 16 years.

In that time, she has gained a Playcentre certificate and a diploma in music for early childhood education, and done courses to keep her up to date with changes in the sector.

She has also raised a child.

However, because her bachelor’s degree is not specifically in early childhood education, and she does not have a diploma in it either, she is not classified as “qualified” under the Ministry of Education’s funding regime.

Mrs Farrell, of Mt Albert, began working in early childhood centres in 1992, and has been banging on the doors of her local MP and ministry representatives for some time trying to convince them that changes to the qualifications requirements are unfair.

But she has been stonewalled every time by a standard response: she must complete a further year’s fulltime study to be considered qualified.

“It’s like a cat chasing its tail.”

She loves her job and has continued to work as a relief teacher for an “unqualified” teacher’s salary.

But next year, when the Government will require 80 per cent of early childhood teachers to hold the standard qualification, or by the end of 2011 at the latest, when 100 per cent of teachers must have it, she may not be accepted into centres because the ministry will not fund “unqualified” staff.

This is despite centres having to turn away desperate families because they do not have enough teachers to keep up with the ministry’s teacher-child ratio of one-to-10 for youngsters aged over 2 and one-to-five for under 2s.

But Mrs Farrell says that at the age of 53, she does not see the point of forking out $5000 to study for a job she wants to continue only part-time.

“If you do not have the experience or the educational training to work with children from birth to 5 after all this, you might as well give up.”

She shouldn’t have to give up.

The bloody mandarins who impose these strictures should be sacked, along with the union leaders who seem to be a party to this daft stuff.

The craziness of what is happening is illuminated elsewhere in the Herald today, where we learn that early childhood centres will have to sack some of their most experienced teachers next year because they have not completed a specialised course.

The teachers do not have a diploma or a bachelor of teaching degree in early childhood education.

The qualification move come as the Ministry of Education estimates centres will be short of between 1500 and 2600 teachers next year.

Early Childhood Council chief executive Sarah Farquhar said the ministry’s stifling qualification requirements were exacerbating the chronic teacher shortage.

Fair to say, Education Minister Anne Tolley told the Herald she has asked officials to work on options that could include increased flexibility on qualifications.

Here’s hoping the buggers buckle.

Dr Farquhar said that if the problem was not fixed, some teachers would have to be made redundant.

“For many thousands of children in early childhood centres, it would be a shame to be losing some very experienced and capable staff for the sake of meeting a target based on ideology, not practicality.

A shame? It would be a bloody outrage.

And – sure enough, here they come – the dead hand of teachers union leaders is playing a part

The New Zealand Educational Institute, the union that represents early childhood teachers, says “watering down” the targets could compromise the quality of education.

It says that “if you have quality and qualified teachers … that’s what makes the difference”.

Yeah, right. Demand higher qualifications, and leave thousands of kids without a childhood centre.

Exactly who are the beneficiaries of this warped idea?

Alf is fascinated to learn the changes to qualifications rules stem from the 2002 strategic plan for early childhood education. That was when Clark and her cronies were in charge of things.

Its goal is for all early childhood centre staff to have the diploma or degree qualifications by the end of 2011.

Today, 50 per cent of staff at an early childhood centre are required to hold recognised qualifications.

This will go up to 80 per cent next year, and to 100 per cent in 2011.

Any teacher holding any other qualification, such as a bachelor of education degree in primary teaching, will have to retrain to secure employment next year, regardless of their experience in early childhood education.

Anyone who does not already have a degree will have to spend three years on the diploma course, or four years on the degree course.

But – as in the case of Anna Farrell – many of the “unqualified” teachers say retraining is out of the question because of the time and cost.

The consequences of this lunacy?

The Early Childhood Council says some centres face closure, while some parents have had their children on waiting lists for months.

Ms Tolley reminds us – of course – that National proposed measures that would help tackle early childhood teacher shortages by adding more flexibility to qualifications.

Here’s hoping she ensures we get enough flexibility into the system.

3 Responses to Early childhood teaching is seized by madness

  1. Inventory2 says:

    You’re quite right Alf – it’s bizarre. We’ll be blogging an insider’s perspective later in the day.

  2. alex Masterley says:

    My wife was an early childhood educator until the sproggs arrived.
    Because she has no bits of paper qualifying her as an ec worker she won’t be able to pick up a job when the youngest hits school.

  3. Paul says:

    This is ridiculous. My sister is an early childhood educator, and she doesn’t need certification currently. I really hope they don’t force her to have a degree and all of that, because she is better with these little kids than anyone where she works. Oh well. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

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