What does the word 'QUALITY' mean when you think about childcare? It doesn't matter what Centre you are looking at, the promotional material will inevitably use quality to assure you they are a great solution for all your childcare and kindergarten needs! I look all over the world at education websites because I am genuinely interested to learn how other places provide and deliver learning and development. I have been so taken in by some websites that I have enrolled in all sorts of interesting courses, including beekeeping - yes, I am a living testament to when advertising works well! But I digress, if we all have 'quality' what does it really mean?
Our New Zealand ECE regulations mean there is a level of quality that we have to maintain over a wide ranging set of standards in order to open our doors for tamariki. Like most things, there's a vast spectrum to the definition of quality and I don't wish to enter into any discrediting anyone else's quality - that's not my job, that's the Ministry of Educations! But what I can do is say I don't think a broad definition of quality is right for children in childcare. Would you chose to go and stay at a 1-star motel just because it's registered and in business?! As a backpacker I have certainly done that but I wouldn't have said it was a quality stay and it definitely wasn't memorable for all the right reasons - I can now laugh about the rat that ran across the floor and the hat I wore to bed so I didn't have to touch the pillow! My point is, our tamariki deserve a better standard of quality across the board. I'd love to provide my business owners with outstanding profit but that comes at a cost I'm not comfortable with. Quality has to mean more than just ratios, surely it must also be about satisfaction, relationships that are meaningful, genuine care, welfare, and continuity. Please, don't get me wrong quality is something that can swing throughout any given day and I am always wondering how we can do better as it's what drives me - no person or place is perfect, being human is what we all have in common.
All of my musings on our Cherry Grove blog come as a result of experiences that have left me thinking. I recently bumped into someone I haven't seen in a long time, she has now relocated to Hawke's Bay and has gone from working in primary to teaching early childcare. I, of course, asked where she was working. She laughed and said there were 5 centres owned by her employers and the daily numbers at each place determined where she would end up working for the day. There was a lot more to this story but I won't bore you with the details or hop on an soapbox about continuity but it did make me realise how lucky I am that I know and adore the teaching team that turns up to Cherry Grove every day. They provide me with quality that I trust, admire, and am proud of - sure that looks different in terms of our outcomes each day but I know they are continuing to strive to make our quality better every day because they have strong relationships with all our families and each other.
Quality is certainly hard to define and even harder to measure as you can certainly be a 1-star childcare centre and still consider you are offering the same quality as everyone else because you are abiding by the regulations. But don't our most vulnerable New Zealanders deserve better quality control? Like I said this is not me judging anyone else but wondering if we can do better as a country to assess the quality of childcare by more than just ratios and learning stories. Something to ponder!