Manawatū’s Country Kindy seeks to overturn ministry move to cancel licence

A rural Manawatū early childhood centre facing closure over alleged curriculum violations will remain open for now after court action was filed, associate education minister David Seymour has confirmed to RNZ.

Country Kindy, between Feilding and Palmerston North, was to have its licence cancelled by the Ministry of Education from 5pm on Monday.

However, Seymour said on Monday afternoon its doors would remain open after court action was taken seeking to overturn the ministry’s move, and the ministry granted a stay.

The ministry said the centre was issued a provisional licence last year but failed to comply with some of the conditions of this.

Last week, however, the Early Childhood Council, which represents more than 1300 early childhood centres, spoke out against the move, which the ministry said was about alleged curriculum violations, as heavy handed.

Seymour, who is the ACT party leader, said he was briefed about the issue last Wednesday.

“It’s fair to say I’m not very impressed that it’s got this far and I’ll be encouraging both parties to sort it out as quickly and as costlessly as possible,” he told RNZ.

“I received an email today from a centre manager telling me they have to maintain 19 different documents to remain compliant.

“I have the view that we need to be making it easier for people to focus on children’s safety and learning, and less on the paperwork.”

The government was reviewing early childhood education regulation, and administration and compliance was not always in the interests of children or what parents wanted for their children, he said.

Early childhood education was costly, and that could be related to the regulatory requirements.

In this case, there was no suggestion children at Country Kindy were at risk physically or from poor treatment. Objections raised by the ministry were about paperwork and compliance in relation to the curriculum.

“That’s what I’ve asked them to take a long, hard look at and check they’re actually doing the right thing as a ministry,” Seymour said.

“I want educators to get on with the job. I want children in a safe environment. Anything more than that and we risk tying people up in red tape without making the boat go faster, as it were.”

Seymour said he did not want to prejudice the court case, but he would like to see the community have confidence in Country Kindy, while allowing the ministry to feel it had done its job to the point necessary to ensure the wellbeing of parents and children.

He met with officials on Monday and “made it very clear that their priority is to be the safety and learning of children and not excessive paperwork or compliance that doesn’t actually deliver a benefit”.

Early Childhood Council chief executive Simon Laube last week said the council was working frantically on extending that timeframe.

Laube last week said if the closure went ahead the 22 children enrolled at Country Kindy would have to find other early childhood centres to attend.

A well-attended public meeting showed there was community support for Country Kindy.

While it was disputed that there were curriculum violations, Laube believed if there were, the ministry should work with Country Kindy to fix such problems rather than cancelling its licence.

The Ministry of Education last week said Country Kindy was placed on a provisional licence in September because of 17 “non compliances” with early childhood regulations and rules.

Since then Country Kindy has failed to comply with seven conditions of the provisional licence, including “curriculum and governance” and “management criteria and regulations”.

Ministry te tai whenua / central deputy secretary Jocelyn Mikaere confirmed the court action was expected to be filed on Tuesday.

“The provider [Country Kindy] has indicated they wish to appeal and believe they have a case that supports their continued operations. We expect the appeal to be filed tomorrow.

“We have agreed that the service can operate tomorrow while the appeal is filed. We have no further comment at this stage.”

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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