Looking for childcare for your precious little one? The good news is that the homework’s been done for you – just go to myece.org.nz for the lowdown on your prospective service.
Type in a name and you’ll find a star rating out of five and a summary that includes relevant findings from the latest Education Review Office (ERO) reports and Ministry of Education figures.(You might have to be patient - the service is very new and some centres haven't been uploaded yet.)
In some cases you can also read what other parents say about the childcare service as parents are encouraged to write reviews.
Early childhood education expert Dr Sarah Farquhar, who founded the site, says parents are so busy these days it’s hard to assess which childcare facility is best.
“So we’re doing the homework for them they so they can make a judgement as to whether this fits their criteria.”
Dr Farquhar says there’s huge variation in the quality of childcare available and now there are 4000 early childhood services around New Zealand. Some stick to the minimum standards of care while others achieve far beyond that.
She says the minimum ratio for infants of one teacher to five infants was “not good” and most centres would be doing better than that.
“We want parents to look for those who do better than the minimum because their children deserve that.”
But unfortunately, no reliable information is available on teacher-child ratios at individual centres.
Dr Farquhar suggests doing a rough head count when visiting prospective centres.
“If there’s one adult to every three or four infants and toddlers then that is good quality. If there’s one adult to every seven or eight preschoolers then that is good too. The bare minimum legally is one adult to 10 preschoolers.”
She hopes by publicising information about the quality of services parents can encourage those meeting only minimum requirements to raise their standards.
Another way of assessing a prospective centre is to look at how the staff talk and relate to the children. Dr Farquhar says look around to see if:
* All children are involved, that no one seems lonely or is just wandering around.
* The staff get down to children’s level when talking to them.
* The children often approach, chat and play with the staff.
* The staff actively supervise and engage with the children, rather than chatting among themselves or doing other things.
* If you’re looking for home-based care, such as PORSE, ask the home educator how she combines activities such as going to the supermarket or picking up school-aged children while caring for your child. Also ask what other school-aged children or adults might be at home at the same time as your child.
By current standards, only 50% of early childhood education (ECE) staff need to be qualified teachers but Dr Farquhar urges parents to look for services where qualified staff make up 80-100%.
But very often lack of time means parents choose the ones with the most noticeable advertising.
“The website is also about allowing parents to see that there is a variety of services in their area. It’s so easy just to look at the advertising when there might be similar ones that don’t have the budget for advertising.”
For more info on what to look for in a childcare service go to myece.org.nz and look up “Reviews of ECE Services”.