What does quality home-based care look like?

Published on Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Last updated on Tuesday, 17 November 2020

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Home-based early childhood education (ECE) caters to all ages under six and adds a ‘family feel’ to child care.

It involves an educator looking after a group of up to four children in their own home, in a child’s home, or in any other home chosen by the children’s parents.

The educator must belong to a licensed home-based service, and this service provides them with support and leadership via a coordinator. Coordinators are qualified and certificated ECE teachers, and practically-speaking:

  • Educators look after the day-to-day needs of children; and
  • Coordinators have primary responsibility for overseeing the education, care, comfort, health and safety of children.

To keep standards high, licensed home-based ECE services must meet lots of criteria to ensure that they provide enriching early learning experiences, high standards of care, safe and healthy environments, professional practices and plenty of opportunities for parental involvement.

This kind of convenient, flexible and individualised child care appeals to many families, and the government says that home-based ECE, ‘Has been the fastest growing part of the early learning sector.’

There was a 65 per cent increase in the number of children receiving home-based ECE between 2007 and 2018, and going forward, the government is taking steps to ensure better, more professional and more consistent home-based care. 

Here we look at some ways the government is monitoring and improving home-based ECE services, and point you in the direction of quality services for your child.   

How is the quality of home-based ECE services measured?

Self-review, formal evaluations and ‘spot checks’ are three ways that home-based ECE services are held to account:

  • Under their licensing criteria, services follow an ‘ongoing process of self-review’ to help maintain and improve the quality of the education and care they provide;
  • The Education Review Office evaluates services and publishes publicly-accessible reports on their website; and
  • In news out this year, the Ministry of Education conducts surprise visits to crack down on high-risk home-based ECE services.

What do we know about these visits to high-risk home-based ECE services?

According to released documents, a ‘little-known team’ from the Ministry of Education spent two years investigating 18 home-based providers and a company that owned 13 early childhood centres in Auckland.

As a result of their 2018/2019 investigations, 14 licenses were cancelled, one cancellation was pending and others were suspended or downgraded to provisional licences.

The Ministry found breaches of health and safety rules at these services, and its team has now been expanded to look into financial fraud (such as over-claimed childhood subsidies).

The Ministry’s internal documents say that, ‘Safety in the sector needs to be improved,’ and Early Childhood Council chief executive, Peter Reynolds approves of the surprise visits. He says, ‘It's important that services offer good quality, and this is a good way of doing it.’

It’s important to remember that there are many home-based ECE services doing a fantastic job of teaching and caring for young children. Quality services work hard to keep their standards high, and it’s heartening to see that the Ministry is weeding out suspect providers.

What is the government doing to improve the quality of home-based care going forward?

The government has long-term plans for home-based care and all forms of early childhood education. In 2018, it reviewed home-based ECE and decided to:

  • Move towards a fully-qualified workforce of home-based educators;
  • Strengthen key roles, including the role of the teacher-qualified coordinator and the role of ERO; and
  • Work on targeted funding to support quality for all children in home-based ECE.

Now, its 2019-2029 Early Learning Action Plan has set the direction and vision for early learning in New Zealand. Over the next decade it aims to:

  • Raise the quality of care, teaching and learning in early learning services;
  • Provide all children with barrier-free access to excellent early education and care; and
  • Enable choice of service type.

Some of the Action Plan’s objectives will be progressed by the Education and Training Bill, and Education Minister, Chris Hipkins says this Bill, ‘Proposes increased monitoring to improve quality and safeguards for children in home-based early learning services.’

The government recognises that teaching qualifications are linked to positive outcomes for children, and for this reason, Objective 3 of the Action Plan aims to ‘Raise the levels of home-based educators’ qualifications’.

What qualifications will home-based educators need to have?

Currently, there are two subsidy rates for home-based ECE services – a minimum ‘standard rate’ and higher ‘quality rate’ – depending on whether they meet the basic or additional requirements of their Regulations.

All educators within quality rate services must hold a Level 3 ECE qualification, or credits towards a Level 4, and as of 2019, the government has increased funding for quality rate home-based services to encourage providers to engage qualified educators.

In the long-term, all home-based educators will need to hold, or be training towards, a Level 4 ECE qualification, or Te Ara Tuarua, or hold a higher ECE or kĊhanga reo qualification (keeping in mind that educators who already hold a Level 3 ECE qualification will be recognised as being equivalent to the Level 4 ECE qualification for funding purposes).

The government says that, ‘Eventually, when the sector is ready, there will be a single quality funding rate,’ and in the meantime, ‘Cost adjustments to the funding rates for home-based early learning services will only be directed towards quality funding rates.’

So, although home-based educators at standard rate services don’t need to be qualified now, they will need to gain qualifications in the future.

How can parents find a quality home-based ECE service?

If home is where your heart is, then there are lots of quality home-based ECE services to choose from in this country.

You might be looking for a service in your first language or culture, seeking an educator your child really connects with, wanting a service close to home (or at home) or requiring flexibility around hours.

In any event, we recommend that you find, compare and contact potential home-based services to find a quality service that meets your needs:

  • The CareforKids.co.nz Child Care Search will help you find providers in your area. Just select ‘home-based care’ from the drop-down menu and input your town or suburb.
  • To make a shortlist, compare the reviews, ratings, vacancy level and fee info of each ECE service. You can also search for their ERO rating at www.ero.govt.nz
  • Next, contact your short-listed services to book a tour. Our printable Home-based Care Checklist will help you measure the quality of each potential provider, taking into account your first impressions of the place, how safe and secure it is, their approach to health and safety, its affordability for your family and the early childhood care and education being offered.
  • Once you’ve decided on a home-based ECE service, it’s time to finalise enrolment with them, check your eligibility for the Childcare Subsidy, and get ready for your child’s first day.

If your favourite service doesn’t have a vacancy, then our Child Care Vacancy Alert will let you know when a place becomes available.

Our free Child Care Guide and Child Care Tool Kits are great references too. Good luck!

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