Early childhood centres demand toddlers, babies have access to more teachers

Early childhood centres are taking a petition to Parliament to demand each toddler or baby has access to more teachers. 

Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand says our minimum teacher ratios are detrimental to a child's development - a position backed by researchers. 

Toni Christie runs a daycare called Childspace in the Wellington suburb of Ngaio.

She rosters one teacher to four babies or toddlers - more staff than she's legally required to provide. 

"If you never give children full attention, they're always hungry for more, and full attention is not possible on the current minimum standards," Christie said.

Two-year-olds are only required to have one teacher for 10 toddlers. It's something Christie - and the parents of kids who go there - believe is dangerous. 

"One toddler's hard enough, so I can't imagine having to deal with 10 at time," mum Casey said.

The current minimum ratio is one teacher to five babies. Then, for two-year-olds, it's one teacher to every 10 kids. 

But childcare centres are now petitioning Parliament for a ratio of one to four for both those age groups. 

The current standards were set back in the 60s but research since has shown toddlers need more teachers so they don't experience something called "toxic stress".

"If a child doesn't feel comfortable in an emotional situation, then their brain shuts down, they cannot deal with new information," Victoria University Professor of early childhood education Carmen Dalli said.

The Government agrees ratios should change.

"I think it would be better if it was a less ratio, for sure," Associate Education Minister Jo Luxton said.

"That is something we will look to progress."

But that all depends on finding and paying for more teachers. 

That's a problem Nigel Green, who was forced to shut his community daycare, knows well. 

"It was heartbreaking to have to say goodbye," Glenfield community centre manager Nigel Green said.

Costs increased and his lower socio-economic area cannot pay higher fees. Plus there weren't enough teachers.  

"We rang all the parents and said we don't have enough teaching staff, so we have to close," Green said.

So a long way to go for that world-class childcare the Government has promised but the sector said it is well short of paying for.

The petition can be found here.