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Key Curriculum requirements for infants – need or must?

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Started by Justine Mason 10 Mar 2011 11:50am () Replies (2)

Although Te Whāriki has been with us since 1996, I still find I learn something new about it almost every day. A few weeks ago a teacher bought to my attention something I had never really taken much notice of before.
 On pages 22 to 26, Te Whāriki describes the infant, toddler and young child.
It also outlines some of the characteristics of the infant toddler and young child. Most importantly the key curriculum requirements for infants, toddlers and young children are defined.
For toddlers and young children it lists the requirements they “need”, however for infants it states
The care of infants is specialised and is neither a scaled-down three- or four-year-old programme nor a baby-sitting arrangement.
Any programme catering for infants must provide:
•    one-to-one responsive interactions (those in which caregivers follow the child’s lead);

•    an adult who is consistently responsible for, and available to, each infant;

•    higher staffing ratios than for older children;

•    sociable, loving, and physically responsive adults who can tune in to an infant’s needs;

•    individualised programmes that can adjust to the infant’s own rhythms;

•    a predictable and calm environment that builds trust and anticipation;

•    partnership between parents and the other adults involved in caring for the infant.

Ministry of Education (1996). Te Whāriki. Wellington: Learning Media

The words "must provide" raises some questions about current practice within early childhood settings.  Jean Rockel's editorial in the recent issue of The First Years Journal "whose needs are being served?" highlights some of those questions.

If the key curriculum requirements for infants were the basis for establishing environments for infants I wonder what would they look like?

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  • Jean Rockel (View all users posts) 10 Mar 2011 3:44pm ()

    I think this is a very important issue to raise.   Yes, there are very clear guidelines in Te Whariki as to what must be done, and actually centres flout these mostly in relation to having 'an adult consistently responsible for, and available to, each infant. 

    I believe continuity in staffing is one of the more serious issues that needs to be addressed.  I was concerned to hear that some centres are employing relievers (albiet sometimes permanent relievers) instead of having any permanent staff as the roll changes from quiet to busy times.  This is a really serious issue.  It is not regulated (maybe it should be) but it is assumed that employers will make wise decisions around this.  Unfortunately the economic imperative is the strongest. 

    Another issue might be individualised programmes, as sometimes infants are expected to all have the same experiences without detailed assessments being undertaken for individual learning.  Again, it is seen as being expedient to set out a 'programme' that is very generalised.  However, I do feel that with the use of narrative assessments that in many centres the individual picture can be captured showing  the unique and interesting aspects of a child's learning.  That is so inspiring for everyone.

    Thank you for raising this Justine.  I think it is something that the Task Force could have looked at (too late now for submissions) as there may be a worsening situation if money is even tighter for centres. So much advocacy is required for the very youngest children and yet society has so much to lose if we don't get it 'right' in the first years.  It needs a very loud voice.

    I wonder what others think? 


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