Reject compulsory ECE

Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Bill
Submission online
Dated 29th October 2012

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

I have concerns regarding numerous aspects of the Bill, however my strongest concern is the compulsory ECE attendance from the age of three.

No-one is better suited than a parent, or dedicated caregiver, to assess whether or not attendance at an ECE could benefit their child/ren. Whilst an ECE environment may be beneficial to some children, it is most certainly not beneficial to all. This freedom of choice must not be removed.

To attempt to remove this choice, and to make ECE attendance of children of beneficiaries compulsory for 15 hours per week clearly contravenes the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, specifically:

Article 26 (3): Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

It also contravenes the New Zealand Care of Children Act 2004:

Article 16: Exercise of guardianship

(1) The duties, powers, rights, and responsibilities of a guardian of a child include (without limitation) the guardian’s—

  • (a) having the role of providing day-to-day care for the child and
  • (b) contributing to the child’s intellectual, emotional, physical, social, cultural, and other personal development; and
  • (c) determining for or with the child, or helping the child to determine, questions about important matters affecting the child.

(2) Important matters affecting the child include (without limitation)—

  • (c) medical treatment for the child (if that medical treatment is not routine in nature); and
  • (d) where, and how, the child is to be educated; and
  • (e) the child’s culture, language, and religious denomination and practice.

There is a growing body of research which clearly indicates that the majority of children are not best served by attendance at an ECE. In fact, the single most important criterion for a child’s ‘success’ in life is the quality of the child’s home environment. To attempt to suggest that an ECE environment, either in terms of academic success or nurturing, is somehow superior to the typical child’s home environment is spurious at best.

“ECE has been shown to benefit children from disadvantaged backgrounds because these children often lack what their more advantaged peers have: a nurturing home environment. Educational researchers regularly report that a nurturing home environment will have a more profound impact on a child’s educational achievement than preschool programmes – a reason often stated for why more advantaged children are not often found to gain much, if anything, educationally from ECE.”  (Dr Jane Silloway Smith, Maxim Institute).

Knowing that we could offer our child a better environment at home is the reason we, consciously and mindfully, opted out of her attending an ECE. Emotionally, socially and academically she is far more successful than she would have been had she been enrolled in an ECE.

Although forcing attendance to an ECE may help a very small proportion of disadvantaged children, it will most certainly not benefit the majority of beneficiary families.

Paula Bennett has indicated that the Government, along with agencies such as Child Youth and Family, have actually already identified some of the ‘at risk’ and ‘vulnerable’ families this Bill is supposed to target. With that being the case, I would strongly recommend that the Government targets these at risk families directly as opposed to introducing blanket legislation.

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