The government subsidised education and care of young children that takes place in the educator’s home or in the child’s home will become professionalised, to ensure better and more consistent quality, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced today.

The move to a fully-qualified workforce is the major change coming out of a review of the home-based early childhood education.

 Home-based early childhood education has been the fastest growing part of the early learning sector, receiving over $150 million each year in public funding. 18,267 children received education and care from a home-based educator in 2018, a 65 percent increase since 2007.

 “The Coalition Government is committed to making New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child. High quality early learning is a right of every child and their parents and whanau, to give them the best possible start in life,” Chris Hipkins said.

 “We’ve heard from educators and parents about the unique place that home-based learning holds, in particular, the family-feel it provides, with small groups and close relationships. But we have also heard concerns about inconsistent quality across the sector, due in part to inadequate government oversight.

Currently no requirement of any professional training

Currently home-based educators are not required to hold a relevant qualification, and in fact, the proportion of services with qualified educators has declined over the last decade.  The Government has decided to move towards a level 4 Early Childhood Education certificate becoming the minimum qualification for home-based educators. 

Evidence suggests that an ECE qualification supports educators to provide children with stimulating, warm and supportive early learning experiences. 

 “I will work with the sector to determine an appropriate time for this qualification requirement to become mandatory. This change represents a substantial shift and it is important to minimise disruption to parents and whanau.

In the meantime, changes to the funding rates and criteria will increasingly encourage home-based services to employ a qualified workforce.

A Cabinet paper on the changes says many grandparents, especially Asian and Pacific migrants, will not have enough English to get the qualification. They may still look after children but will not get state subsidies.

Other decisions on the review include:

·         Strengthened oversight through a beefed-up ‘visiting teacher’ role;

·         Giving the Education Review Office the power to enter homes where home-based early childhood education is taking place; and

·         More explicit requirements on service providers to provide health and safety training and professional development for educators.

Number of home-based educators may fall in the short term

It is likely that this announcement might result in some short-term fall in the numbers of home-based educators. However, it is important to note that there has already been a decline in the numbers of home-based educators in the last few years.

“It is likely that our higher requirements and greater scrutiny will result in some providers exiting the market, or moving to informal arrangements that no longer receive public money. These are most likely to be providers where educators are au pairs or family members, or the service specialises in short-term care arrangements.

“While I believe au pairs provide valuable support to parents, exempting this group would have undermined the intent of the policy. As there is no definition of au pair in the current regulatory framework, an exemption could have led to unintended rapid growth in the unqualified au pair market. This could lead to significant variability in quality across home-based early childhood education.

“Education and care in the home is a valued option for many parents and whanau.  Today’s changes will ensure that parents can be confident in the quality of education provided for their children,” Mr Hipkins said.