Changes Proposed for In-Home Educator Qualifications

Published on Tuesday, 14 May 2019
Last updated on Tuesday, 31 December 2019

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In New Zealand, there are approximately 8,000 home-based educators caring for about 13,000 children, not including nannies and au pairs who work in the homes of the children.

After a formal review in 2018, Chris Hipkins, the Education Minister, recently announced that a proposal has been put forward for all in-home educators to hold a Level 4 Early Childhood Education Certificate.

While the move has not been finalised, if these changes go ahead, many educators and children will be significantly affected. Here's what you need to know about the proposed changes to qualifications and what the initial feedback has been from the industry.

The reason for change

According to the review, 70 per cent of all home-based educators have no ECE qualification and the recommendation for all in-home carers to have a minimum qualification of a Level 4 Early Childhood Education Certificate is driven by a desire to more effectively teach the children who are in these settings.

"Evidence suggests that an ECE qualification supports educators to provide children with stimulating, warm and supportive interactions. These interactions are important for young children, as they are shown to lead to better educational outcomes," said Mr Hipkins.

"Positive early learning experiences improve educational achievement in the short and long term, when children move on to primary school and secondary school."

Not everyone is happy

Following the minister's announcement, the feedback from individuals and collectives in the industry has been quite varied, with some like Home Early Learning Organisation (HELO) being strongly opposed to the move.

"While HELO supports the Government's intent to lift the quality of care that is provided within the home-based sector, we don't agree with the assumption that qualifications are the only measure of quality.

For many reasons, a large number of current educators will be unable to gain a Level 4 qualification, but they are currently providing quality, authentic education for the children in their care," said HELO spokesperson, Raewyn Overton-Stuart.

She references the minister's expectation on a number of care situations to revert to 'informal arrangements' which means there will be no educational oversight by a qualified teacher, which will affect both the wellbeing of a number of children/whānau in lower socio-economic areas of the country and families with English as a second language.

"It will also affect parents' ability to choose the early childhood service that best and most appropriately fits their needs, particularly for those who choose an au pair, or a family member who gives a grounding in their child's first language and culture," Ms Overton-Stuart added.

Others welcome the idea of stricter policies

However, other organisations such as Whānau Manaaki Kindergartens, who also have three home-based networks catering for around 120 mainly Pasifika children, support the minister's proposed changes.

"Home-based education is a great alternative for many families, however it is important that children receive a high quality programme from people who are skilled and knowledgeable about the needs of young children," said Amanda Coulston, Chief Executive Officer of Whānau Manaaki.

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), also welcomes the move from the minister towards more professional in-home early childhood care and education to ensure all children in these environments are accessing high quality, culturally relevant, consistent and safe educational opportunities.

However, they believe this can only be achieved by effective resourcing which to date the ECE sector has suffered from chronic lack of.

"We agree with NZEI (NZ Education Institute) that this is an important and overdue move, and that alongside the requirement for qualified educators, the Government must ramp up its funding to ensure that the sector is adequately resourced to provide high quality, culturally responsive services for all children, especially those affected by disadvantage, disability or who may have special learning needs," said Dr Jenny Ritchie, Associate Professor in the School of Education at Victoria University of Wellington and spokesperson for CPAG.

"It is vital that ERO (Education Review Office) are resourced to be able to conduct appropriate evaluations of these services. Home-based carers should be supported to continue their learning beyond the initial level four qualification, to gain a degree level qualification. They should also be linked into community hubs and provided with much greater support than a one hour per month visit from their agency," she continued.

Others believe that more quality in-home services in general will reduce the burden on centres with waiting lists and may provide families/whānau with local options that don't require extensive travel.

Other proposed changes to home-based care

It's not just the move to improve educator qualifications that the minister has put forward in relation to home-based early childhood education either. Other suggested changes include:

  • A requirement for educators to receive better pay and conditions.
  • Parents being more informed about the level of government funding being provided for their child.
  • Coordinators, or visiting teachers, making more frequent visits to the educators they're supervising.
  • Coordinators and educators to receive health and safety training.

Additionally, as of March 1, standard rated services (those with some unqualified educators) won't receive a 1.6 per cent funding increase - something which HELO believes will greatly impact the ability for home-based services to run programs effectively or be affordable for parents.

Where to from here?

If you don't currently have a Level 4 ECE Certificate and you are a home-based educator, don't worry as the qualification requirements haven't officially taken effect yet. However, it is wise to stay abreast of any updates as they occur and plan for possible change.

To read more information about the government's proposal for increased levels of home-based early childhood qualifications (including the minister's cabinet paper), and be informed of when the Strategic Plan for Early Learning is finalised, please visit the Education Conversation website here.

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