Evaluation of promoting Early Childhood Education (ECE) participation project Publications
This report contains the findings from an evaluation of the processes and outcomes of the Promoting Early Childhood Education (ECE) Participation Project. It is abbreviated throughout this report to PPP. The primary goal being to ensure that, “every child has the opportunity to participate in quality ECE, by assisting communities to address barriers resulting in non-participation in ECE, by children who might otherwise participate”.
Author(s): Robyn Dixon, Dr Deborah Widdowson, Patricia Meagher-Lundberg, Centre for Child and Family Policy Research and Dr Airini and Dr Colleen McMurchy-Pilkington, Faculty of Education, University of Auckland.
Date Published: August 2007
This report is available as a download (please refer to the 'Downloads' inset box). Please consider the environment before printing the contents of this report.
The data reported provide: a picture of the operationalisation of the programme in different contexts; identification of the factors that are important in supporting effective implementation across communities; and information on the effectiveness of the programme in achieving the intended outcomes, including increased participation.The qualitative data gathered in the course of this evaluation indicates that, in communities where PPP was operating, families who might not otherwise have been participating are now participating in ECE. However, it is not possible to draw conclusions about the degree to which families have been retained.
The Promoting Participation Project and Objectives
Aim of PPP
The PPP originally aimed to lift the participation of targeted communities (in particular Māori and Pasifika) in quality ECE services, at least to the level of the general population in order to reduce ethnically-related disparities (Ministry of Education, 2005a). The primary goal being to ensure that, "every child has the opportunity to participate in quality ECE, by assisting communities to address barriers resulting in non-participation in ECE, by children who might otherwise participate" (MOE, 2005a). PPP was originally intended to be targeted solely on Māori and Pasifika, however, during the implementation, the focus on Māori and Pasifika was "widened to include other groups with low ECE participation, including low-income and refugee families" (MOE, 2005a, p2).
Between 2002 and 2004, four pilot PPP schemes were established, contracted to Māori Trust Boards and within iwi partnerships on the basis of Memorandums of Understanding with MOE established in the late 1990s. This was a response to those iwi organisations calling for the need to determine their own strategies and come up with solutions by Māori for Māori. Trust Boards' visions were to unify their Nations. To achieve this, the plan was to support their people to be healthy and educated, economically vibrant, underpinned by a thriving 'Te Taiao' (environment).
Key evaluation objectives
The key objectives of the evaluation were:
- To determine the outcomes that have been achieved though PPP.
- To determine the factors that support or inhibit the implementation of an effective PPP.
- To determine whether PPP is sufficiently broad and flexible to allow implementation in ways that best suit each community.
Evaluation design, sample and data gathering processes
The evaluation employed largely qualitative methods with interviews with key programme participants being the primary source of data. Interviewed were:
- Nine PPP providers, four Māori, three Pasifika and two pilot programmes from four MOE regions (Northern, Central North, Central South and Southern).
- Staff from 20 ECE services where children had been enrolled.
- Ministry of Education personnel involved in implementing the PPP (9).
- Both participating families (32) and Pasifika families who had chosen not to participate in PPP (5)1.
- Key stakeholders involved in the pilot programmes were also interviewed; two coordinators of puna kohungahunga2; an Ahuru Mowai Born to Learn3 facilitator; and members of the pilot communities (a Parents As First Teachers (PAFT) worker and two school principals).
Other methods were:
- Document analysis, used to supplement the information gained in interviews.
- Quantitative data on participation in ECE were examined to provide a context for the analysis of PPP data.
Outcomes achieved through PPP
In line with policy intent, PPP programmes were sited predominantly in low socio economic communities with low ECE participation, with a few programmes targeting a small population group within a wider geographic community. Within communities, the availability of ECE services varied widely. In some cases, PPP providers had established ECE services, like playgroups, in order to meet community need.
Māori and Pasifika participation in ECE
- National PPP data suggests that the degree to which targets were met varied widely across MOE regions.
- National PPP data shows that from June 2004 to May 2006, 2836 children had been introduced to ECE by PPP providers.
- Data on participation, as described in evaluation sample milestone reports, were in several instances, incomplete. It is however possible to say that overall the PPP providers in this evaluation were making progress towards meeting targets for introduction and enrolment.
- Families participating in ECE as a result of the work of PPP providers were largely Māori and/or Pasifika or of more than one ethnicity
Nature of participation
- According to most provider reports, participation met the stipulated requirement of 'consistent attendance for a minimum of 9 hours per week over a 3 month period'. However, providers did not report the degree to which participation was sustained.
- A variety of ECE services have been accessed by Pasifika families (e.g., kindergarten, care and education centres, language immersion centres) and by Māori families (e.g., kohanga reo, puna reo, puna kohungahunga, kindergarten and care and education services).
- Most Māori and Pasifika providers aimed to place children in ECE environments that delivered 'culturally appropriate' learning environments. This meant different things to different providers: For some Māori providers, this equated to a total immersion programme based on kaupapa Māori, while for others this corresponded to an environment that supported Māori tikanga and second language learning. Still other Māori providers defined this as, an environment developed by Māori for Māori. For most Pasifika providers, a culturally appropriate environment related to a total immersion programme in the language of the particular ethnic group involved. Most providers did offer families a choice of ECE, in line with the intent of PPP; a few did not.
- Although outside the targeted age group, many children placed in ECE by PPP providers were under 3 years of age. Participation by younger siblings of children recruited through PPP appears to account for some of this; however, the identification of and enrolment of children under 3 would seem to be inconsistent with policy intent which was to focus on participation for three and four year olds
Five Pasifika families who had decided not to participate in ECE after input from PPP providers were interviewed. Non participating families noted a wide variety of supports offered to families by providers to encourage them to participate including assistance to access subsidies, information on the benefits of ECE participation for families and children, transport, and advice on child management. Reasons given for non participation included:
- Cost of attending ECE (fees or koha, food and appropriate clothing).
- Lack of transport.
- Health problems.
- Lack of confidence in ECE services to adequately provide cultural knowledge and differing beliefs around the appropriate age at which a child should attend ECE.
- Reasons given for families discontinuing participation included:
- Cost of attending ECE (fees or koha, food and appropriate clothing).
- Lack of transport.
- Lack of time.
- No further need for child care.
Growth in community capacity
Growth in community capacity appears to have been facilitated through work undertaken as part of PPP. In some instances, communities had worked together to support the establishment of ECE services where gaps were identified. Other aspects relevant to community capacity building attributed to PPP include:
- Increased parental skill levels and confidence (e.g. management and administration skills through involvement in puna reo).
- Increased awareness of ECE options in the community.
- Increased participation in the workforce and an associated improved financial situation.
- Greater awareness in the community of the value of ECE.
- Increased organisational capacity amongst providers.
- In one Pasifika community the PPP was the catalyst for the establishment of a network to raise the awareness of ECE amongst families. The network comprised prominent people from the community, including teachers, parents and extended family members, who actively promoted ECE . The community involvement in the governance and management of the network, and the development of a succession strategy, ensured the sustainability of the network.
- Increased confidence and capacity in Māori and Pasifika language and cultural practices.
- Increased human resources for ECE in communities due to parents studying for and attaining ECE qualifications.
A number of outcomes outside those which were the focus of the PPP intervention were identified. These were as follows:
- The opportunity for MOE regional staff to access information from the community about the community.
- Pasifika providers identified the need for trained Pasifika ECE educators, and potential candidates amongst families, encouraging the development of a trained ECE Pasifika workforce for their community (in line with the goals of the ECE Strategic Plan).
- Improved MOE regional office internal communication processes through working across MOE teams to enable PPP work to be carried out (e.g. the establishment of playgroups).
Factors supporting or hindering the implementation of effective PPP
Several factors were identified through the evaluation as key to successful provision of PPP provider work.
- PPP providers and fieldworkers who were known to and trusted by the community. This was assisted, particularly where Māori were concerned, when the organisation was wh ā nau-based and close knit, and where fieldwork was undertaken face-to-face.
- PPP providers who established links with ECE within their communities and with government agencies. This assisted identification of non participating families and afforded providers the knowledge and contacts necessary to undertake their work. Where providers held other government contracts in addition to PPP, this appeared to support their community knowledge and facilitate networking as well as contributing to their levels of credibility and trust within the community.
- Pasifika participation in ECE was supported by activities that facilitated cultural connectedness (e.g. linking of families into ECE services supporting language immersion or with Pasifika educators) and by fieldworkers of the same cultural background as the families, who spoke the language of the family, as this assisted communication.
- Similarly, for Māori families, having access to ECE environments that supported Māori cultural practices and language was an important factor. A whānau environment such as that offered by puna and playgroups was an effective way of introducing families to ECE and encouraging participation.
- PPP workers having an ECE background and/or extensive knowledge of ECE in order to ensure promotion of the benefits of ECE services suited to families.
- Assistance with transport to ECE services supported placement of and retention of families.
Barriers to success
The key factors identified through the evaluation as barriers to successful implementation of PPP were:
- Lack of appreciation of the value of ECE on the part of the families.
- For some Pasifika families lack of understanding of the child-centred approach used in New Zealand ECE meant that the benefits of ECE were not fully appreciated.
- A lack of responsiveness to the needs of Māori and Pasifika families on the part of some ECE educators in non-Māori and non-Pasifika services. ECE educators may benefit from support around working with Māori and Pasifika families.
- Poverty and related social and economic demands on families. In some instances, community-based ECE offered a more financially-viable option for families.
- Transience of families and the use of aliases and different surnames making it difficult to locate families.
- A poor range and/or quality of ECE services in some communities impeded placement of identified families.
- In some cases the quality of buildings and associated facilities, especially where puna were concerned, restricted participation.
Replication of effective PPP approaches
Several approaches adopted by PPP providers which were effective in promoting participation and appear able to be replicated were:
- In Pasifika communities, a community development approach operated, which involved collaboration between providers, and the extended community, to educate families about and promote participation in ECE.
- Two related approaches were identified for Māori providers; an iwi development approach and an individual family approach. Both approaches were underpinned by the same philosophy and overarching goal – Māori development – although the focus and enactment of this differed. The iwi development approach focussed on Māori iwi development and PPP was a means of introducing families into language immersion or bilingual ECE contexts. This approach is likely to be replicable where similar iwi organisations exist. The individual family approach focussed on family needs first matching families to the type of ECE best suited to them. This approach may be replicable in similar urban contexts.
- A further approach, seemingly replicable in both Māori and Pasifika contexts, involves the use of puna and playgroups as an initial step in encouraging participation in ECE.
Was PPP sufficiently broad and flexible, allowing implementation in ways that best suit each community?
Overall, it appears that PPP has been implemented in a broad and flexible manner in response to the particular needs of the communities.
Key features of PPP work were:
- Providers building and maintaining relationships in their communities with ECE services and with families.
- Providers maintaining credibility with MOE and communities.
- MOE regional office support for the efforts of providers by managing national operational expectations and the expectations of community organisations around the PPP work, providing capacity building and instigating forums for information sharing and networking.
- Flexibility of approaches to engage parents. This often required intensive intervention to engage low socio economic families, with complex needs.
According to MOE regional staff and PPP providers the main issues impacting on PPP work were:
- Limited hours to work with families.
- The intensive nature of the work required.
- The large geographical areas covered by some providers which limited the time they had with families.
- Provider isolation.
- Organisational instability in some PPP provider organisations.
- Targets difficult to achieve.
Ways in which PPP activities could be improved
Ways in which MOE regional staff and PPP providers suggested PPP work could be further improved included:
- National coordination to support consistency in PPP work and to enable replication of approaches or strategies that worked. That is, to ensure that information is communicated across PPP communities (e.g. through hui or networked e-mails), and to enable sharing of ideas and problem solving strategies.
- The ECE sector should continue to be informed about PPP in order that parties concerned are aware of what is happening in the community.
- Exemplars of success stories and issues reflecting the enormous diversity and difference amongst PPP communities would be useful in supporting providers in their work.
The qualitative data gathered in the course of this evaluation indicates that, in communities where PPP was operating, families who might not otherwise have been participating are now participating in ECE. However, limitations in the system for collecting data from providers, gaps in provider data, and variable strengths of provider reporting preclude the evaluation from being able to reliably determine the degree to which PPP has been associated with an increase in participation, or to draw conclusions about the degree to which families have been retained.An important strength of PPP was its ability to accommodate the different philosophies of providers and the associated modes of programme delivery. PPP was focused on and driven by the needs of families and communities in working to engage families and children in ECE and so sufficiently broad and flexible to allow implementation in ways that best suit each community.
- All non-participating families were Pasifika as, unfortunately, requests to interview non participating Māori families were not able to be met. This was due to a number of reasons including families not being available on the days the researchers were working in the areas.
- Māori immersion playgroups.
- The education curriculum used in Parents As First Teachers and Family Start.
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