Early learning foundations
Prior to the earthquakes greater Christchurch was well served by early childhood education (ECE) services, providing 15,380 places.
Damage to buildings and land and changes in family circumstances have changed both provision and demand.
In the year to July 2011, enrolments dropped by more than 1,000. For families living in the east of Christchurch, where there are higher concentrations of Māori and Pasifika, there is a continuing risk of reduced participation.
Many parents, apprehensive about leaving their children, are choosing to keep them at home, and some on reduced incomes are withdrawing children from early childhood education.
These factors are having a significant, often fluctuating, impact on enrolments and hours of attendance and on funding of ECE services.
At the same time, it is expected an influx of workers will put further pressure on services once rebuilding work begins in earnest.
Looking to the future of early childhood education
Greater Christchurch needs quality ECE services to support children’s social and educational development, support parents to work or study, and enhance community wellbeing.
You have underscored the important of ECE in your submissions. The clear themes are the need for flexibility, ensuring strong leadership and well-trained staff, responsiveness to cultural diversity and use of existing capacity.
To ensure equity of outcomes, greater Christchurch will need a network of quality Māori immersion services, and services that are responsive to the needs, identities, languages and cultures of their learners. Because ECE participation is not compulsory, services must not only be accessible, they must also be affordable, offer suitable hours (part-time, full-day, or casual), have philosophies that parents are comfortable with, and be supportive of the full diversity of learners.
ECE services play a key role in effective transitions to school for children/tamariki and their family/whānau, and are well placed to address the isolation and lack of belonging typically felt by families moving to new areas within the city or families new to Christchurch.
The following actions will help achieve these outcomes while the rebuilding of greater Christchurch is also progressing, while keeping the focus on the learners, their families and whānau:
- Ensuring demand for early childhood education services is met in the short and long term.
- Continuing to value and support the identities, languages and cultures of learners.
- Encouraging ECE participation by families from priority groups.
You can learn more about these the actions to support early learning foundations [PDF; 881kb] in the Education Renewal Recovery Programme which has informed the development of a plan for renewal that will improve the delivery of education, extend the options available for learners, and lift student achievement.