November 17, 2018.
An early childhood centre has excluded a child for attendance of less than 7 hours daily and his mother has questioned this. But the centre has claimed a shortage of teachers has driven this decision.
“The teachers are lovely, we love the centre and we want Ani to be able to stay,” said his mother Vinaya Ravi.
Two year old Ani had been attending Mighty Minds Educare centre in Auckland.
The enrolment form showed agreement that he would attend 3 days a week for 4 hours (8.30am – 12.30pm). His family supplied food for the centre to give to Ani, as Ani has multiple food intolerances. The fee structure was $180.00 for 3 short-days per week, which worked out to be $15.00 per hour for the hours that Ani attended.
Ani had been attending for 2 months when he became unwell.
“The spring weather had made his eczema worse and I needed to keep him home to apply lotion and give him his medicine, Indian medicine which the centre would not administer.”
In the second week of absence Mrs Ravi enquired if she was required to continue to pay fees during the absence.
She was advised by email that she did not and the centre would remove his booked hours until his return. He remained enrolled.
Centre manager Cheryl Cheng says that at Mighty Minds they felt bad about charging when Ani was absent.
“He was away for a week and mum said he had got eczema. We didn’t want to keep charging when he was not here,” said Ms Cheng.
Just over two weeks when Ani was well enough to return, Mrs Ravi informed the centre.
However, Mrs Ravi was advised by email: “Due to strict laws with Ministry of Education, we do require Ani to start attending the full (part-time 7 Hours). Unfortunately we are unable to allow him to continue coming in from 8:30 – 12:30. This is a legal requirement we have to meet.”
Ms Cheng confirmed that this was her centre’s position.
“If he stayed only 3 or 4 hours I would have had to contact the ministry and ask if this is allowed. We would have got in trouble,” she said.
It is not known if the centre had claimed funding for 7 hours in excess of the hours stated on his enrolment form for the first two months that he was enrolled. Under the ministry’s frequent absence rule after two months, funding cannot be claimed for hours that the child is regularly absent. Furthermore, the enrolled hours need to be changed to reflect the normal hours of attendance for the child.
There is no law requiring services to enforce child attendance of 3 to 4 hours, or more than 1 hour.
Ms Cheng said that there were some further reasons for cancelling Ani’s enrolment.
“We don’t really have space right now and it’s really hard for us to find staff. We were advertising to get staff and we are using relievers. There are two under-2s with birthdays soon needing to move up so there’s no space unless I hire another teacher.”
According to the Ministry of Education, more over-2s per teacher are allowed providing the service does not exceed the total number of children it is licensed for.
Mighty Minds is advertising for more children on its website. “Enrol in our centre now and receive 6 weeks @ 1/2 fee – saving of up to $885!!!”
Mrs Ravi is disappointed.
“I thought this was loving centre. It accepted Ani. It should not have rejected him after two months.”
“When we enrolled Ani I wanted to settle him in gradually and make sure he had his needs met before leaving him for the full 7 hours”, said Mrs Ravi.
Ms Cheng confirmed this: “Initially when they came to us and wanted him to attend shorter times I discussed other childcare and kindy options. But they didn’t want to go anywhere else. It seemed to be a high needs situation and so we agreed to support.”
She added that the centre had specially discounted the fees for the family.
Ms Ravi says this was not the case as the centre’s 3 day rate was $180.00. Invoices supported that they were charged this amount for attendance.