ECE Benefits Overstated, Costly To Taxpayer – Study

Media Release 23 October 2014
Family First NZ says that a UK study on early childhood education should make the New Zealand government reevaluate their policy of increasing the rate of participation in early childhood education to 98 per cent by 2016.

The study by the University of Surrey, University of Essex and the Institute of Education, found that free part-time pre-school education in England has not led to lasting educational benefits, and for every six children given a free place by the scheme, only one had started nursery because of it.

It found that, on average, free nursery places had had a small beneficial impact at age five, but the size of this effect had declined by age seven and disappeared by age 11. The poorest children had seen significant improvements to their educational ability at age five, but this did not close the gap in attainment between rich and poor children in the longer term, the researchers say.

“Government spending on early childhood education has almost tripled in the past ten years. It’s time to ask whether that investment is necessary and getting value for money,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“ECE may actually be more of a marketing ploy than a realistic service outcome. And the huge levels of government spending may not be targeting the financial assistance where it is most needed – as has been revealed in the UK study.”

“In fact the negatives may outweigh the positives of ECE. A recent report argued that attending daycare for an extended time, and the consequent separation from parents, is a significant source of stress for many young children which could have potential long-term consequences for their mental and physical health as adults.”

“There is growing evidence of profound beneficial neurobiological effects a mother’s physical presence has on her young child that cannot be achieved by anyone else including paid childcare workers. Any discussion of daycare should cease communicating what is assumed adults are interested in and instead make judgments about what is likely to be in children’s best interests. Terms, such as ‘family-friendly policies’, ‘flexi-hours’ and ‘maternity leave’ often amount to meeting the needs of the parent and the economy, not the child,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“It is essential that the benefits of the investment in ECE are weighed against the real needs of children and their families and the actual outcomes of ECE – based on the latest research.”

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