Background

Legislative requirements

Early childhood services are required to implement suitable human resource management practices. In accordance with the Education Act 1989, if a service is licensed under the 2008 (Early Childhood Services) Regulations then Regulation 47, the Governance, Management and Administration (GMA) Standard, applies and this is assessed using criterion GMA 7[2] (or GMA 6 if a home-based education and care service).

Services are required to have documentation and processes for human resource management practices that include the following:

  • selection and appointment procedures
  • job/role descriptions
  • induction procedures into the service
  • a system of regular appraisal
  • provision for professional development
  • a definition of serious misconduct
  • discipline/dismissal procedures.

Nine percent of the 235 services in this evaluation were still licensed under the 1998 (Early Childhood Centres) Regulations and associated Desirable Objectives and Practices (DOPs).[3] The human resource management practices of these services must meet DOP 11a which states:

(a) Management should implement personnel policies which promote quality practices including appointment of competent staff, staff appraisal and professional development for both management and educators.

Kindergartens are bound by the requirements of the State Sector Act 1988 (s77A) which sets expectations related to employment practices. This includes operating a personnel policy that complies with the principle of being a good employer and making that policy (including the equal opportunities programme) available to its employees.

The Registered Teachers Criteria[4] outline the essential knowledge and capabilities required for quality teaching in New Zealand. The criteria apply to all teachers in their everyday professional practice seeking to gain full registration, or to renew a practising certificate with full registration. However, not all staff working in early childhood services are registered teachers. Services are only required to have a minimum of 50 percent of their staff comprising qualified teachers. According to Ministry of Education data, around 76 percent of teaching staff were qualified in 2013, while the number of registered teaching staff was 75 percent.[5]

In 2011, The Ministry of Education and NZTC developed Tātaiako: Cultural competencies for Teachers of Māori Learners[6] as a guide for developing cultural competence for teachers, boards of trustees, educational leaders, and providers of professional learning development and initial teacher education. While the competencies are not formal standards or criteria, they are linked to the Graduating Teacher Standards[7] and the RTC.

Appraisal systems commonly used in New Zealand’s early childhood education sector require self and/or collegial assessment against the RTC, and collective agreements such as the Kindergarten Teachers, Head Teachers and Senior Teachers Collective Agreement[8] or the Early Childhood Education Collective Agreement.[9] Service providers may employ staff on individual contracts and these can set out the expectations against which appraisal will be undertaken. This may include a focus on specific tasks in job descriptions and/or competencies set out in the employment agreement.

Good practice

Quality in Action- Te Mahi Whai Hua[10] provide services with useful guidance in relation to employment practices.

Performance management is the process of identifying, evaluating, and developing the performance of employees in an organisation so that organisational goals and objectives are more effectively achieved. At the same time, employees benefit in terms of recognition, constructive feedback, rewards, and professional guidance and support.

An effective appraisal system is a positive means of improving the performance of a service’s management and educators and, ultimately, the quality of the service itself. Effective appraisals are supportive, rigorous and culturally appropriate.

Professional development allows management and educators to update their knowledge and respond to current issues. It also assists them to meet their performance objectives and helps a service to meet the goals and objectives of strategic and management plans.

By linking individual appraisals with professional development, services are able to develop the expertise of management and educators. This in turn leads to improved management practices and better quality outcomes for children. (Ministry of Education, 1998, p. 75)

According to Shorter[11] ‘an appraisal system which encourages self and collegial evaluation towards individual, and team professional learning goals may contribute to the development of a democratic and professional learning community’. Reflective practice, collective decision‑making, dialogue, planning and a shared vision are valued as responsible and accountable ways of promoting positive teaching and learning outcomes. Shorter reiterated that collegiality must go further than just working and sharing together. The focus must be on the core business of improving learning outcomes for children.

Sheridan et al[12] state that there are two key objectives for early childhood teachers engaging in professional development. Firstly, it is to enhance the comprehension, skills, dispositions and teaching practices of early childhood teachers to assist them in educating children and supporting families. Professional development involves the improvement of a teacher’s knowledge, skills and dispositions. Secondly, professional development is to foster a culture for sustained professional growth for both individuals and services.

A recent evaluation of Ministry of Education funded professional development programmes reported considerable evidence of services making shifts from modest to extensive changes in attitude, knowledge and practice. A key factor that positively influenced changes in practice was the careful integration into programmes of self‑review processes and related strategies that promoted teacher engagement and reflection. However, far less evidence was found that these changes in practice were improving learning outcomes for children.[13]

The impact of professional development on improving learning outcomes for children is very important, but is often a neglected area. Earley suggested that if the overall purpose of professional development is to enhance teaching practice and thereby impact positively on children’s learning, then it is vital to have evaluation processes in place to give an indication of whether this is happening or not.[14]