Summary Report of Early Childhood Education (ECE) Complaints Received by the Ministry in 2015

Services are meeting our standards

At any one time, 98% of more than 4,500 licensed ECE services me ngā kōhanga reo are meeting our standards for over 200,000 child enrolments. Our standards include strict requirements for the safety and wellbeing of children.

We require every ECE service me ngā kōhanga reo to have a complaints process and to make this available to parents. We encourage parents who have a complaint to raise it with the ECE service te kōhanga reo rānei. Most complaints are resolved through this process without our involvement.

Parents who are not satisfied with the response of an ECE service te kōhanga reo rānei to a complaint can also register a complaint with the Ministry. Anyone can raise a complaint, and we log all complaints including anonymous complaints.

We address all complaints, and determine whether they require further investigation or other appropriate action.

More information on how to raise a complaint with an ECE service te kōhanga reo rānei or with the Ministry of Education can be found on our Parents website.

Complaints received in 2015

We received complaints throughout 2015, with the most complaints received from the Auckland region followed by the Canterbury and Wellington regions. Figure 1 illustrates the total number received by region, compared with the total number of children attending ECE for each region*.

Figure 1 - Complaints received by Ministry of Education region and total number of child enrolments in ECE

2015 ECE Complaints received - Ministry Region.

*Based on the results of the 2015 ECE Census. For National Office, the total number of child attending is non-applicable.

In total we received 342 complaints about ECE services me ngā kōhanga reo in 2015. After assessment 183 complaints required further investigation.

The number of complaints we received in 2015 remains small when compared to the total number of ECE services me ngā kōhanga reo, and the number of children enrolled in them.

We managed the 159 complaints that did not require further investigation by:

  • providing advice and guidance to the ECE service te kōhanga reo rānei;
  • referring the person making the complaint back to the ECE service me ngā kōhanga reo complaints process; and
  • referring the person making the complaint to another agency who could more appropriately address the problem.

Some complaints did not require further investigation because they were nullified or withdrawn.

Investigating a complaint

We receive complaints where there is a suspected breach of regulatory requirements. Complaints are received in relation to one or a number of regulatory categories:

  • Curriculum; 
  • Premises and Facilities; 
  • Health and Safety; 
  • Governance, Management and Administration; and 
  • Ratios of Staff to Children.

In 2015, the most common types of complaint were related to Governance, Management and Administration, with 213 received. The next most common type of complaints related to Health and Safety, with 176 received.

Figure 2 - Complaints received and investigated by regulatory category

2015 ECE Complaints Received and Investigated by Regulatory Category.

Some complaints relate to multiple categories. In these cases, the complaint is counted in all relevant categories. The 342 complaints we received contain components from 462 regulatory categories. The complaints which we investigated contained components from 252 regulatory categories.

Under one third of complaints received were upheld

Of the 183 complaints we investigated further, 49 were upheld in full and 55 were partly upheld because one or more of our regulatory standards had not been met. 69 of the 183 complaints we investigated were not upheld. 10 complaints were still under investigation.

An upheld complaint refers to a complaint which we found to be substantiated.

A complaint is partly upheld when some but not all of the alleged breaches to our regulatory standards can be substantiated.

We take a range of actions to address an upheld or partly upheld complaint, each dependent on the circumstances and severity.

In 2015 we implemented the following interventions as a response to upheld and partly upheld complaints:

  • a review of the service policies or procedures; 
  • providing advice and guidance to the service;
  • ongoing monitoring and support of the service; 
  • establishing an Action Plan;
  • professional learning and development; and 
  • implementation of a Provisional licence.
We take complaints about harm seriously

Complaints received in 2015 were varied in nature and severity. We consider complaints alleging that children’s health and safety are at risk to be particularly severe.

We work closely with other relevant agencies including the New Zealand Police and Child, Youth and Family in response to allegations of abuse or neglect.

The introduction of the Vulnerable Children Act 2014 and the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 are among changes that directly impact how complaints and incidents are managed in ECE.

Services are required under this legislation, and our updated Licensing Criteria, to report serious incidents to relevant agencies such as WorkSafe New Zealand, their Regional Public Health Office, Child, Youth and Family, and the New Zealand Police.

Since the introduction of this legislation we have worked with the sector to further strengthen child protection strategies and to improve safety checking. This has included changes to the guidance and licensing criteria for ECE services me ngā kōhanga reo, and strengthened requirements to safety check all children’s workers.

As a condition of their licence or certification, ECE services must notify the Ministry of Education if a child becomes seriously ill or harmed while in the care of the service. Parents must also be notified immediately of any incident. If another agency has been notified of an incident by a service, parents, or the community, the Ministry of Education must also be notified.

We can and we do put an ECE service provider on a provisional licence, suspend or cancel a licence if it isn’t meeting our high licensing standards.

Whenever there is any concern about the well-being of children in ECE, whether identified by parents, visits by Ministry staff or reported by the service te kōhanga reo rānei, we act immediately to investigate and implement a response.

Upheld Complaints

The table below outlines complaints we received and upheld in 2015. They are broken down into more specific categories based on the content and nature of the complaint.

Note that some complaints have been counted multiple times where services have not met multiple standards.

Type of ComplaintDescriptionReceivedUpheld
Abuse or neglect Allegations of physical or emotional injuries inflicted on children, including verbal abuse, isolation of children and physical harm. 27 10
Accidents Allegations of poor accident management procedures, including insufficient reporting of accidents to parents, children injuring each other and accidental injuries suffered by children. 35 13
After-school care Allegations of services providing an out-of-school service for over-5s whilst simultaneously providing a licensed ECE service for under-5s. 1 0
Behaviour management Allegations of poor behaviour management strategies used by teachers. 54 19
Child leaving premises Allegations of children accidentally leaving a service due to unsecure premises or a lapse in staff supervision. 8 6
Complaints procedure Allegations of dissatisfaction with the service’s complaints procedure or the response of a service to a complaint. 28 8
Curriculum Allegations of poor curriculum quality, such as using inappropriate materials or poor implementation of Te Whāriki. 28 7
Employment practices Allegations of wrongful dismissals, poor staff management and poor employment policies. 29 3
Enrolments Allegations of service enrolment policies being unclear, changed with insufficient notice or not meeting the needs of the community. 17 3
Exclusions Allegations of children or caregivers being asked to leave a service with insufficient notice or reason. 2 1
Excursions Allegations of dissatisfaction with excursion procedures, including policies, staffing, communication and hazard mitigation. 3 1
Fees Allegations of overcharging, lack of transparency surrounding fees and subsidies and lack of communication regarding fee changes. 45 11
Fraud Allegations of services making fraudulent claims about children’s attendance to the Ministry for funding purposes 9 0
Health and safety Allegations of general problems with health and safety policies and procedures, including hazard management, food policies, child protection policies and smoking. 67 18
Hygiene Allegations of poor hygiene levels including head lice, child illness, and cleaning products used. 9 1
Management and Administration Allegations of problems with the management and policies of a service including staff turnover, resources, relationships with, and communication from, management. 78 22
Premises and facilities Allegations of problems with the service’s premises, such as lack of space, lack of heating, or unsafe playground equipment. 17 6
Privacy Allegations of children’s, parents’ or teachers’ information being shared without permission. 6 1
Ratios Allegations that there are not enough staff present for the amount of children attending the ECE service. 29 6
Regulatory requirements Allegations of services not sufficiently meeting regulations, including operating without a licence. 5 1
Special education Allegations of staff lacking the skills, experience or resources needed to appropriately respond to the special education needs of children. 10 2
Supervision Allegations of insufficient supervision of children attending the service. 26 7
Teacher behaviour Allegations of staff behaving inappropriately, generally towards parents rather than children. 26 2
Teacher suitability Allegations that staff are unsuited to care for children. 8 0
Transportation Allegations of problems with a service’s transport arrangements, such as insufficient seating or insufficient supervision on transportation. 3 1

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