October 31, 2014

ECE doesn’t seem to suit every child

I am writing in opposition to the drafting of the social security amendment bill and in particular, the requirements proposed upon 3-4 year old children (and, I guess, 5 year old children who are not yet enrolled in school) to attend early childhood education (ECE).

(1) ECE doesn’t seem to suit every child. Some children thrive around other children the same age while other kids are more shy and may do better at home with their parent(s) than surrounded by a group of others. Why should the child have to go somewhere they are not comfortable with, as a result of their parent(s) claiming a benefit, and yet their peers of higher incomes don’t have such pressure. That’s discriminatory for the kids who have not caused or requested the benefit dependency.

(2) Recent studies in the UK recommmend no formal teaching of the 3 R’s until 6 years of age. (see article www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9266592/Bright-children-should-start-school-at-six-says-academic.html). I am concerned that the high focus on ECE for young children will be counter-productive and that those who dislike ECE will go on to dislike school when they are older (5 or 6yrs).

(3) The intention is to protect the vulnerable. Surely WINZ staff who meet with clients and are concerned that the basics of health and food are not being met for children, can make a CYF referral? I would imagine that that would be a better target than lumping all beneficiaries in the same basket. Beneficiaries vary greatly and some will be giving the best of care to their children while others may lack skills. Perhaps support could be given to community initiatives such as parenting courses.

(4) There at least needs to be some consideration to a situation where a family comes onto a benefit as a result of sudden change in circumstances, e.g. the income earner parent is made redundant, a relationship breaks down and DPB is sought, or the parent must quit work and go onto the sickness/invalids benefit. These life changes are often accompanied with a change in lifestyle, which parent predominantly provides day to day care, or moving house. To a 3 or 4 year old, retaining their daily routine in the first 6-12 months is incredibly important.

(5) I am also mindful of homeschooling families who are able to apply for school exemptions for their children aged 6 years and older, but are now potentially faced with having to enrol their preschoolers into ECE. I have no concerns with people claiming a benefit and homeschooling and I know that American statistics suggest that homeschoolers generally do very well socially and educationally. Those families have MOE checks and are subject to any CYF intervention if concerns are raised, just like the rest of New Zealand. I would like to see those families be able to continue the dedicated work they are doing without the disruption of ECE obligations.

(6) Encouraging a beneficiary back into work definitely does have merit. But when a primary caregiver has small children, working can be very difficult. Every time the child has a runny nose or other virus, a lot of time needs to be taken off work because the child is not able to attend ECE. Not everyone has the support of nearby grandparents willing to have snotty-nosed children at short notice. There’s also expectations for attending well child checks and doctors appointments, usually done in working hours. This naturally becomes easier as the children get older but, as a part-time working mum with a 3 year old and 1 1/2 year old, I definitely find the sick days the hardest for work continuity as well as income: sick leave is not available until 6 months of work, and then only 5 days per year.

Thank you for reading my submission.