Jill Bond is the new Chief Executive Officer of New Zealand Kindergartens. In this exclusive interview with CareforKids.co.nz, Jill explains her professional background and what her vision is for New Zealand Kindergartens.
What was your background before joining NZ Kindergartens (NZK)?
I have enjoyed a significant public sector career. For the past 25 years I have held executive/senior leadership roles in the New Zealand Central Government agencies of Health, Education and Housing. Before joining NZK I was the Executive Director, Office of the Director General of Health. I worked across the organisation and the health and disability sector to advise on strategic, operational and governance matters affecting performance and reputation, and had responsibility for the delivery of a refreshed NZ Health Strategy.
I have a passion for organisational excellence, customer service excellence and leadership development. I have led culture change and transformational programmes to better position organisations and business units to deliver on their strategic direction, aspirations and operational mandate. I have authored and co-facilitated two national development programmes: "I'm The Customer" focused on customer service excellence and "The Leader Within" - a leadership programme linked to the NZ State Services Commission talent management framework to nurture, grow and develop leadership potential and skills within the organisation.
What attracted you to working for NZ Kindergartens?
Why wouldn't you want to?! Being part of an organisation that helps grow, develop and enable children and their family to thrive is a privilege. Kindergarten has been around for almost 100 years in NZ and has touched the lives of thousands of children. I was a "kindy kid" and I loved going to kindergarten. I'm not sure that I was so interested in the formal learning, but I certainly enjoyed the creativity and play. I remember I also enjoyed the morning tea - white bread, butter and hundreds and thousands sprinkles.
What does your role as Chief Executive entail?
My role exists to support 25 local kindergarten associations: approximately 452 individual kindergartens, more than 21,000 children, and 2,000 qualified teachers across New Zealand – they are my customers. I work for and represent their views and ideas at a national level, engaging with and influencing Government, sector agencies, Ministry of Education and other ministries, the education sector, not for profit agencies, unions and any collective or individual who can support us to grow and strengthen the kindergarten movement.
Can you expand on this a bit more?
Kindergarten associations are incorporated societies and registered charities. The funding that's received from Government and its agencies, parents and the community is used to engage children and their families in high quality teaching and learning.
Associations are governed by a board and are accountable for ensuring high quality education and care is available, accessible, affordable and appropriate. It is important for me to understand the successes, challenges and aspirations of each association and I am looking forward to working with them individually and collectively to make sure that kindergarten not only celebrates its 100th year anniversary in 2026 but its 200th.
By understanding the local associations, it enables me to effectively represent views and positions at a national level. I report to the NZ Kindergarten Board and have a responsibility to ensure that they are abreast of current successes and challenges and positioning for the future.
In your opinion, what are the challenges currently faced by the industry or your organisation?
The Governments' objectives for education relate to learners at the centre, barrier free access, quality learning, quality public education, and 21st century learning. From an ECE perspective this relates to excellence in teaching and learning - 100 per cent qualified teachers; inclusive education - a cohesive and systemic approach to learning support/special education policy development and implementation and practice needs to be in place to ensure every child succeeds; planned provision - appropriate level of service within community that reflects and meets their needs; and, funding - to deliver on the education objectives set by Government.
What are your primary goals for NZ Kindergartens?
Our purpose is to grow and strengthen the kindergarten movement. We want every child to be a kindergarten child because the movement:
- is the public provider of early childhood education
- is the heart of and reflects local communities
- is available, accessible, affordable and appropriate
- delivers excellence in teaching and learning
Our strategic priorities are focused on diversity, sustainability, and leading practice. We want the movement to meet the needs and aspirations of young children, their families and whānau and community. We want the movement to grow and expand, to maximise effectiveness and efficiency opportunities and to be relevant and fit for purpose. We also want the movement to deliver best practice and emergent practice in teaching and learning, governance, management and leadership.
We know that what happens in early childhood education makes a difference for a lifetime and that is why the NZK Board and I are committed to working towards achieving these goals so that our iconic brand endures, and we truly make a difference for children and their families.
What, in your opinion, are the most important factors to ensure NZ has the best possible early childhood education system?
I strongly believe that ECE needs to be part of the education eco-system. The design needs to ensure seamless inclusion and transition for tamariki, curricula, learning support and overall alignment with change processes within the sector.
As part of proposed reforms Government is talking about having a public provider of early childhood education. We see the kindergarten movement as the provider of public early childhood education. Kindergarten meets the prerequisite conditions which separate public from private sector organisations. It's a not-for-profit service and registered charity. We have well-established and supported networks of services operating nationally and we provide public education when viewed alongside the compulsory sector. Specifically, we:
- employ qualified and certificated teachers
- require the same base qualifications for employment
- are covered by the State Sector Act
- have salaries and terms of conditions negotiated by the Ministry of Education
- support professional advisors of teaching and learning to work alongside teaching teams
- have kindergartens across communities with nearly half on school sites and many adjacent to their local school
- have governance structures in place.
Anything else you'd like to add regarding your new role at NZ Kindergartens?
It is a very exciting time to be involved in education. Government has an ambitious agenda for reform, and we want to be a leader and partner in that. We know that we must demonstrate our ability to:
- be a leader in pedagogy and innovative practice
- advance the Government's agenda for education including around language, identity and culture
- demonstrate expertise in effective transition partnerships and leading practice in the first years of schooling
- demonstrate strong community connections and alliances - for example with iwi, churches, schools, social sector and local Government
- be able to set up new services, particularly in areas of high need
- meet expectations that ECE services support labour market needs and the needs of diverse and complex communities including refugee and migrant communities
- demonstrate the relevance of current and new services within local communities including social service hubs
- ensure the infrastructure to work alongside and report to Government is in place.
This requires us to build on our positive past, accelerate exemplary practice and leave behind those things that are not fit for the future. As a movement we are looking at how we can best position ourselves individually and collectively to meet these challenges.
As part of our exciting online newsletter for early learning and care providers we are running a series of articles profiling dynamic people working in the sector. If you know someone that you think we should profile please contact firstname.lastname@example.org