25 Jun 2019

Jump in complaints about early childhood education services last year

2:56 pm on 25 June 2019

Bad teachers, fraudulent record-keeping and biting children were among the 430 complaints the Education Ministry received about early childhood services last year.

Early childhood centre learning. (File pic)

Photo: 123rf

The ministry's annual report about early childhood complaints showed the number of complaints was 26 percent higher than the previous year and 221 were upheld.

The complaints resulted in the cancellation of licences for five services, licence-suspension for six, and 34 others were placed on provisional licences.

The report said the ministry made 19 referrals to police and 22 to the Teaching Council following its investigations.

The ministry upheld 73 allegations of health and safety problems, including hazard management and food practices, and 45 allegations of poor behaviour management of children by teachers.

It also upheld 39 allegations about inadequate supervision of children and 33 allegations about problems with management and policies.

The ministry received 59 complaints about possible physical or emotional harm to children, including verbal abuse and isolation of children and upheld 16 cases.

One of the complaints alleged a service failed to adequately respond to the symptoms of a child who was hospitalised in 2017 and later died. The ministry's investigation found no fault in the service's policies and procedures, but identified problems with its premises and facilities.

The ministry found 27 cases where services were running with fewer staff than legally required, including one case where the complainant was told to deliberately falsify records to hide the fact it was not meeting minimum child to teacher ratios.

Many of the complaints related to the way early childhood services responded to cases of children harming one another by biting, hitting or pulling hair.

There were also several cases in which services refused to enrol children with special education needs.

All five services that lost their licences were the subject of complaints about children's safety, though the report had few details on those.

In one case, the complainant "raised concerns about inappropriate behaviour management practices including ill-treatment, solitary confinement, physical and verbal abuse, bullying of children and children being force fed".

The report said the ministry's investigation resulted in immediate licence-suspension followed by cancellation and the case was referred to police, Oranga Tamariki and the Teaching Council.

The ministry said parents and whānau were more confident about complaining to it when they thought things were not right at a service.

In addition to the complaints, the ministry received 315 incident notifications in 2018, resulting in provisional licenses for seven services and a cancellation for one service.

The notifications included cases of children escaping a service, children falling from play equipment, and infectious illnesses.

In one case, "an unknown child entered the service and asked to be enrolled".

There were several notifications of aggressive behaviour by parents, and notifications of teachers or student teachers hitting or pushing children.

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