Effective employment practices aim to develop, strengthen and make the best use of staff skills and knowledge to enhance teaching practice and maximise the safety and learning for all children. The quality of the early childhood education workforce, in particular staff performance, impacts on the extent to which services have the capacity to promote positive learning outcomes for all children.
ERO found that many services had a good working knowledge of employment policies and procedures and used a variety of strategies to manage and develop staff. However, the rigour with which these were implemented varied.
While ERO’s findings indicate that services that are part of an association or umbrella organisation are more likely to be effective in managing and developing staff, there are some services that clearly need more support to develop and implement robust employment policies and procedures. This is an area where more guidance is needed.
ERO’s findings highlight the need for leaders to take an active role in ensuring professional development is well planned, aligned to appraisal goals and to the service’s strategic goals, adequately resourced, and regularly evaluated in terms of the impact on teaching practice and outcomes for children. The 2013 evaluation of Ministry of Education funded professional development programmes notes that ‘management and leadership of ECE services can have a significant influence on the success or otherwise of a professional development programme’. While a range of factors contributed to the level of staff turnover across all services, those services that proactively supported staff with ongoing professional development were more likely to have a low staff turnover.
A continuing challenge for early childhood services is to implement an effective appraisal system as the mechanism for improving teaching practice and the provision of quality education and care. In some of the services, leaders lacked the understanding and competence required to implement a rigorous appraisal process. In particular, they were not confident in providing staff with the constructive, but sometimes necessary critical feedback, required to improve practice. Services need to strengthen the links between appraisal goals and their service’s vision, strategic plan and goals, and align development needs with ongoing planned and relevant professional development.
This evaluation highlights several issues that have the potential to put the safety and wellbeing of young children at risk. All services must have robust checks in place at the time staff are being appointed to ensure qualifications are verified and referee checks are conducted. In addition, all services must be aware of their obligations with regards to police vetting.
The final issue relates to the gap in the current system for reporting issues about staff competence or conduct. The Education Act 1989 states that, in certain circumstances, mandatory reporting is required for registered teachers to NZTC. However, there are no clear guidelines on how to deal with complaints about staff in early childhood services who are not registered or qualified. According to Ministry of Education data, in 2013 there was a total of 22,200 teachers working in teacher-led services and, of these, 25 percent (5,454) are not registered.
ERO’s evaluation highlights the need for further investigation and discussion about how to address the matter of identifying and reporting on issues of competence and conduct when staff are not qualified and registered as teachers.