November 26, 2014

For many children ‘later’ is better than ‘earlier’ when it comes to institutional education

Dear Sir/Madam

I OPPOSE the Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill 2012.

In particular, I strongly reject to the clause(s) which compel parents enrol their children in Early Childhood Education (ECE) in order to receive financial assistance from the government.

My own children (aged between 3 and 8 years) have all attended our local kindergarten, with the youngest currently enrolled there. However, none of them have attended for their maximum entitlement, and all of them have benefitted from the flexibility to choose the number of hours that suits each of them.  One of my children was so emotionally drained and stressed by the experience of attending kindergarten for 4 mornings per week (a total of 16 hours) that she suffered chronic ear infections for the year that she was 4 years old, including becoming completely deaf for a period of 6 weeks. This chronic illness ceased when I greatly reduced the number of hours she attended kindergarten.

I relate that personal story to illustrate that not all children thrive in an ECE environment.

Good parents want their children to thrive.  We all want all New Zealand children to thrive, grow healthy, strong, and receive an excellent education.  What I reject is the assumption that an Early Childhood Education Provider is the best or only way to deliver that.

Our Education Law currently recognises that while some children benefit from kindergartens, play-centres and other day-care environments, other children require a different approach.  The Education Act requires enrolment in school only from the age of 6. This ensures that those children who require a slower start, a later start, can do so.  It recognises that for many children ‘later’ is better than ‘earlier’ when it comes to institutional education. This law must be upheld for ALL children in New Zealand – not just those whose parents are fortunate enough to not require government assistance.

Additionally, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Standards (E/C.12/1999/10, Article 13.29), states that “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that will be given to their children”. As a parent who does not receive a benefit (but does receive Working for Families support), I have benefitted from this freedom of choice.  As a universal human right, it is a right which also belongs to people receiving government assistance.

I urge you to reject this Bill, as it denies the rights of parents to make fundamental choices about the raising of their children.