Saturday, June 14, 2014

Monday, April 28, 2014

Current ECE debates

There are some interesting debates in the NZ Education sector at the moment but also some very poorly informed research being paraded as evidence for why ECE is failing children. Please feel free to email me any other links along the same lines - to

I decided to add a range of the links here to put several of these debates in one place.

A Blog post on Hekia Parata's decision to end the Teachers Council and create a new body where Teachers are unable to elect any representatives.

Doing the rounds on ECE Facebook pages is the following Blog post arguing against John Hattie and Ken Blaiklock's recent comments in a Listener article that I will post when I can An interesting post but the vitriol gets in the way of some very good points.… 

Another Link

Here is Blaiklocks response to Helen Mays response to his presentation to the Ministry last year.. Scroll right to the end to see what Blaiklock presented to  the Ministry of Education. this was NOT representative, by the way, of the views of the  ECE team at Unitec 

And here are some responses to the Listener article

At last someone is asking the questions that need to be asked about the spending of so much taxpayers’ money on consultants to intrude on peoples’ right to choose to attend a non-compulsory sector of the education system (“Early warnings”, April 19). The millions spent on contractors might be better spent on improving child health and eliminating the conditions of poverty, which is the daily experience of many Pacific children targeted in this sweep of initiatives. Chronically ill, deaf, undernourished or obese children being raised in badly insulated homes cannot learn, however wonderful the early childhood education (ECE) provision.
I fully support quality ECE and have spent many years in teacher education committed to producing qualified and registered teachers, which is the major component of quality ECE. However, the wholesale pushing of children and their families into variable quality provisions is the worst tragedy of all. In any forum where I speak, my message to Pacific parents is clear: you do not send your child to an unqualified doctor or your pet to an unqualified vet, so why would you send your child to an unqualified teacher that your child spends hours of their life with?
The government money would be better spent improving quality, rather than sending out patronising prophets to Pacific communities, which already know about the value of ECE but are prevented from accessing it because of cost or a lack of information or confidence.
For Pacific communities, quality also includes those centres that produce bilingual children fluent in Pacific languages who are cognitively advantaged learners according to reputable international research.
Diane Mara
Associate dean Pasifika,
Faculty of Education,
University of Auckland

Professor Helen May (Letters, April 26), one of the authors of Te Whariki, the early childhood education (ECE) curriculum, appears annoyed that serious concerns have been raised about its effectiveness. As an experienced academic, however, May should welcome challenge and debate about Te Whariki, instead of shooting the messengers when presented with evidence-informed viewpoints that differ from her own.
May’s response to the concerns raised by Professor John Hattie and me claims “the views presented come from voices whose engagement in ECE, and whose scholarly or professional standing in ECE, is non-existent, fleeting or lightweight”. Strong words indeed, but rather than directing baseless personal attacks at her colleagues, it would be more productive for May to acknowledge that Te Whariki, like all educational policy documents, should be amenable to change in the light of valid research evidence.
May suggests that Professor Anne Smith has dealt with my concerns about Te Whariki, but this is not the case. I have written in detail about Smith’s comments in a paper available online at Unitec’s Research Bank ( The paper, which also presents an analysis of the OECD’s examination of Te Whariki, concludes with the following.
“There is very little empirical evidence that the use of Te Whariki is effective at reducing educational inequities and promoting the learning and well-being of all children. Indeed, it is quite possible that the nature of the curriculum, by providing little guidance for teachers and making no requirements to teach or assess key areas of learning, is actually limiting opportunities for children to be provided with a full range of learning experiences and is falling well short of what is required to reduce educational disparities in our society. We now need to make substantial changes to Te Whariki, or consider developing a new research-based curriculum, if we are to ensure that all children in New Zealand will receive a high quality early childhood education.”
Ken Blaiklock
Department of Education,
Unitec Institute of Technology


The “Early Warnings” report, while better than most at avoiding the platitudes that surround early childhood education in this country, still comments only briefly on the central issue: the first five years of life are critical for language development. Children with delayed language development on entry to school are at greatly increased risk of school failure. Fortunately, one of the goals of our early childhood curriculum, Te Whariki, is ensuring that children “develop verbal communication skills for a range of purposes”. It also advises ECE teachers to ask themselves “in what ways does the programme provide for one-to-one language interaction … between adult and child?”
However, it is not sufficient simply to argue that ECE must be of “high quality” if “quality” is nowhere defined or measured. Given that language development and learning how to behave are No 1 priorities in under-fives, here is a simple test of ECE quality. Tally, on a piece of paper, each time you say something to your preschooler and the child replies. Don’t record the interactions, which are just instructions about what you want the child to do. Make another tally every time the child talks to you and you reply. Do this for six hours over a two-day period when you are both at home.
Now go to your child’s ECE centre and count the number of adult-child and child-adult interactions (about matters other than how to behave) involving your child for six hours. If you find that your ECE centre is providing at least 80% as many one-on-one language-learning interactions as are being provided at home, then the centre is probably of sufficient educational quality for you to continue your child’s enrolment without putting their future achievement at risk.
John Church
Adjunct senior fellow, Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury

Friday, April 25, 2014

Photography in early childhood education | EDtalks

An interesting talk I found when researching the topic. There is a real dearth of information on the current dominant discourses around Photography in ECE, which I am hoping to remedy.