Drunk, abuse, force-feeding: Horrific early childhood education complaints

Author
Luke Kirkness, NZ Herald ,
Section
Education,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 11 July 2018, 2:31PM
The Ministry of Education released the report today. Photo / File
The Ministry of Education released the report today. Photo / File

Cases of rough handling, inadequate supervision and children going unfed have surfaced in a horrific catalogue of complaints against early childhood education services.

The Ministry of Education released a report this morning featuring all the complaints about early childhood education (ECE) received in 2017.

They received 339 complaints about early learning services and investigated 297 of them - the further 42 did not require an investigation.

Of those investigated, 166 were upheld, which means that standards were either not met or the investigation found there were areas which needed improvement.

Here are some of the cases that were investigated:

• Service informed the Ministry after a teacher roughly handled a child, resulting in a dislocated shoulder.

• NZ Police notified Ministry of an infant who was shaken while at service. Educator was charged and sentenced.

• Children were force-fed and concerns about the teaching practice by the head teacher were raised. Two staff members suspended and subsequently resigned.

• A staff member was stood down after arriving at the service under the influence of alcohol.

• A teacher was dismissed after pulling the chair out from under a child.

The Ministry suspended the licences of six services, cancelled nine services and changed 31 services' licences to provisional after a number of complaints.

They received eight more complaints last year than in 2016, but the number of upheld complaints remained largely the same, the Ministry said.

"Every complaint we receive is treated seriously," Deputy Secretary Sector Enablement and Support Katrina Casey said.

"We assess each complaint, and if a service falls short of the standards we impose conditions for improvement or shut the service down."

Complaints stemmed from children suffering broken bones, service work conditions, how they are managed by staff, and the use of inappropriate language.

Other cases of interest featured a service temporarily being placed on a provisional licence after a child died shortly after being picked up from care.

A service also reported a "near-miss" after a child climbed into a storage container and was accidentally locked inside it for a short time.

The child was soon discovered and was distressed but had no physical injuries and recovered quickly after some care from staff.

Another service's licence was cancelled after a complaint alleged a staff member hurt a child through rough handling.

The same complaint alleged that children had left the premises unattended, children went unfed and there was inadequate supervision.

By law, ECE services are required to have processes in place so that parents can complain or ask questions if they're not happy with their child's education and care.

"Most complaints can be managed at the service level but parents, whānau and caregivers are encouraged to come to us if they are not satisfied with the response from a service or if the complaint is potentially serious.

"We continue to look at ways to improve our management of complaints and to use the insights from our investigations to improve our services.

"Nothing is more important than the safety and wellbeing of our children," Casey said.

ON AIR: Overnight Talk

12AM - 5AM