'Significant jump' in early childhood education complaints in 2018

The Ministry of Education (MoE) say there has been a "significant jump" in complaints about early childhood education services received last year.

These included 59 allegations of physical and emotional injuries inflicted on children, including verbal abuse, isolation of children and physical harm.

There were also 112 complaints over health and safety problems, and 16 allegations of poor hygiene levels - including head lice.

"In 2018, we received 430 complaints about early learning services and certificated playgroups," the ministry says.

"These complaints were made in relation to 345 early learning services (including playgroups), or 6.3 percent of the early learning sector."

MoE deputy secretary Katrina Casey says its important parents and whānau have confidence their children are learning in a safe, well-run service. 

"We want people to speak up when they're unhappy or unsure of something. It's reassuring to see that is happening. Nothing is more important than the safety and wellbeing of our children," she said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Every complaint we receive is treated seriously. We assess each complaint, and investigate when required. If a service falls short of the regulated standards, we impose conditions for improvement or shut the service down."

In 2018, 56.5 percent of complaints investigated were upheld, relating to 176 early learning services.

The most commonly upheld complaints were related to: 

  • health and safety (17 percent of all complaints received)
  • behaviour management (10 percent of all complaints received)
  • supervision (9 percent of all complaints received)

As a result, 45 early learning services that received a complaint had their licence amended to provisional, or were suspended or cancelled.

The MoE says 73 referrals were made to other agencies in relation to 48 complaints. This included:

  • 24 referrals to Oranga Tamariki/Ministry for Children
  • 22 referrals to the Teaching Council
  • 19 referrals to Police