Early Childhood Monograph Series: The Quality of Education and Care in Infant and Toddler Centres (January 2009) 01/01/2009

About infant and toddler centres

Which infant and toddler centres are discussed in this monograph?

This report is based on ERO’s findings from the reviews of 74 centre-based early childhood services, located throughout New Zealand, licensed to take only children under the age of two. The centres were in towns and cities and were either private or community-owned. All had ERO reports completed between February 2005 and January 2008.

Some early childhood services, such as playcentres, kōhanga reo, and education and care centres, are often licensed to take older children as well those under two years old. These were not included in this evaluation.

When were these centres open, and who attended?

There was wide variation in the hours that the centres were open. Some were open to take children all day, while others were open for only part of the day. Eighty percent of the centres had between 15 and 25 children attending at one time. The remaining 20 percent had smaller groups of children. In total 2,031 children were enrolled at the 74 centres. Forty-nine percent were girls and 51 percent were boys.
The ethnicity of the children attending the 74 centres is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Children’s ethnicity

Figure 1: Children’s ethnicity pie chart

This is a pie chart called Ethnicities of children. The key is labelled from top to bottom as NZ European/Pakeha, Maori, Other Ethnicities and Pacific. NZ European/ Pakeha percentage is 76%, Maori is 13%, other ethnicities 9% and Pacific 2%.

Some infant and toddler centres were on sites where there was more than one centre. Children were moved from one centre to another as they got older. These centres normally took the children for visits with a familiar teacher to the adjoining centre before they moved to that new centre. This helped ease the transition for children and parents.

How were parents involved?

There are many different ownership arrangements for early childhood services and these have implications for how parents are involved in service management and governance roles.

ERO noted that parents were part of the management committee in a few services. In one service, parents were included in the adult/child ratio and stayed during the session. However, the majority of services were in private or corporate ownership and parents’ involvement in management of the centre was limited.

Many centres used formal communication methods, such as questionnaires, to seek regular feedback about the extent to which the centre was meeting parents’ needs and expectations. This enabled parents to contribute to decisions about their centre’s programme.

In early childhood education there is growing recognition of the benefit of teachers and parents working together to identify learning goals and teaching strategies for each child. The infant and toddler centres in this study used a range of ways to involve and engage parents in their children’s learning. Parents contributed to the assessment of their children through written entries in children’s records of learning and by sharing information with teachers through individual meetings and informal conversations. Many centres used additional ways to communicate with parents, such as daily notebooks for sharing information about infants’ routines, including feeding and sleeping. ERO found in some centres parents could contribute to planning and assessment practices. Centres also involved parents by displaying information about children’s learning, and through parent education evenings. Some centres sought feedback from parents when reviewing the charter, policies or aspects of the programme or environment.

How frequently were services reviewed?

ERO undertakes education reviews in early childhood education services on a three year cycle. When the performance of a service gives cause for concern, ERO carries out a further (supplementary) review within 12 months. In eight percent of the infant and toddler centres in this study, ERO indicated that the centre’s next review would be a supplementary review. Across all early childhood education services, supplementary reviews generally occur in about 12 to 15 percent of services annually.

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