The Atkinson Centre for Society and Child Development is a research centre that is committed to using the best available evidence on early child development to inform public disclosure, public policy and the professional learning of those who work with young children. They have released the Early Childhood Education Report (ECER) for 2017. It evaluates the quality of provincial/territorial early years services against a 15 point scale, organized around 5 categories, with 19 benchmarks. Prince Edward Island scored the highest in Canada with 11/15; followed by Quebec (10/15) , Ontario & New Brunswick (9.5/15) ; Newfoundland & Nova Scotia (8.5/15); Manitoba & North West Territories (8/15); Saskatchewan (7.5/15); British Columbia (7/15) ; Alberta (6.5/15); Yukon (5.5/15); Nunuvut (5/15).
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) provided a prescription for countries to improve their early childhood services. Their recommendations will help Manitoba as it works to fulfill its post election “most improved province” commitment.
The OECD said:
The report notes that at present, eight out of 13 provinces/territories have moved policy and oversight for child care to their education departments. In Manitoba, responsibility for child care belongs to the Department of Families. The upcoming review of the Community Child Care Standards Act provides an ideal opportunity for Manitoba to consult with service providers and stakeholders and consider new ways to strengthen governance.
As of August 2017, there were 16,702 children on the Online Child Care Registry waiting for a licensed child care space. The shortage of quality, regulated early years services continues to grow in Manitoba and government has yet to announce a comprehensive action plan with targets, resources, and timelines to address the gap between supply and demand for services, while also addressing infrastructure, workforce, and governance.
Government has said their priority is to add new spaces in and increase funding to licensed home child care providers who require only 40 hours of training to get a license. Is that sufficient to ensure a high quality early learning program is included along with the care? What about all those preschoolers who are in unlicensed home child care where the quality of relationships and of the learning environment is uncertain? Manitoba Education has identified literacy and numeracy to be fundamental to the growth and health of Manitoba’s economy, cultures, and social fabric. The preschool years lay the foundation for future learning and the answers to questions like caregiver qualifications and the shortage of licensed spaces must be the first priority in Manitoba’s strategy to close the achievement gap. Our province must plan for a universal child care system that ensures a space is available, accessible, and affordable in a high quality program for parents who choose the service.
There are several provincial government initiatives in place to attract and support more people through ECE diploma training, however there continues to be a shortage of ECEs in most areas of of Manitoba, especially outside of Winnipeg. Thousands of ECEs have graduated; not enough have stayed in the child care system because government hasn’t invested in fair compensation for the workforce. The heart of the problem is that parent fees and operating grants aren’t high enough to support competitive wages. The minimum starting for an ECE has been $15.50 per hour for the past 9 years. The average ECE earns $18.38 after 14.7 years of experience. There are now fewer options for an ECE II to acquire an ECE III and little financial reward to those who invest in enhancing their qualifications. School divisions pay better wages and are easily able to recruit experienced ECEs out of child care.
The ECER notes:
The practice of staffing child care using directors’ exemptions (i.e. filling positions requiring ECE qualifications with unqualified staff) drags on quality, further demoralizing qualified educators. That practice is so common in Manitoba now that it’s the new normal. Many child care centres operate with fewer Early Childhood Educators than required. In fact, MCCA/Probe Research survey 2016 identified that 49% of child care centres have operated with a conditional license due to staff shortages and 69% of child care centre directors say it’s hard to hire early childhood educators.
Manitoba needs a comprehensive workforce strategy to address these issues.
Healthy Child Manitoba has ensured available research has increased awareness of the link between early childhood development and future child outcomes. Far more could be done to strengthen quality and early learning by ensuring a licensed child care space is available for every child who needs one, by increasing entry level and post diploma training requirements for both centre based and home child care providers, increasing wages, and ensuring there is communication, collaboration, and consistency between licensed child care as the first tier of education outside the home, and the formal education system.
The report emphasizes that ECE policy must consider access, affordability, and quality. Manitoba has a lot of work to do to re-gain it’s status as a provincial leader in early learning and child care The ECER along with the Manitoba Early Learning and Child Care Commission are both important resources to help guide policy development.
Posted by Jodie Kehl at 1:14 pm