Messy play at Playcentre

Written By: - Date published: 3:52 pm, April 6th, 2009 - 20 comments
Categories: national - Tags: ,

Playcentre was founded during the second world war as a way for families (mainly mothers) to support each other while providing quality child-centred pre-school education for their children. This the was era of the innovative educational ideas of Fraser and Beeby and the Playcentre concept was developed by Beatrice Beeby and her friends while Dr Beeby made the tea. Janet Fraser, the Prime Minister’s wife, attended the opening of some of the first Wellington centres.

For decades Playcentre has provided community connections over the sandpit and finger painting. Parents learn both the the importance of messy play in child development and how to run their own cooperative centre. This also involved a huge amount of fundraising until the late 1980s when Minister of Education Phil Goff included Playcentre into same per child funding formula as other childcare providers.

But the last Labour led government’s 20 Hours Free market model of child care did not fit easily with the cooperative Playcentre model. Ironic that such a child-centred policy from the political left financially benefitted private providers more than nonprofit community groups.

The NZ Playcentre Federation was understandably miffed about being missed out and lobbied the National Party opposition strongly. This led to a pledge from National last July to include Playcentre in ECE 20 Hours Free, which was repeated several times during the campaign.

Playcentre were delighted and were quick to congratulate the new govenment on its election.

It might, however, all end in tears at it seems the National Government is now back-tracking on this promise.

But after all it’s only children.

20 comments on “Messy play at Playcentre”

  1. BLiP 1

    Another broken promise. Thanks National.

  2. Quoth the Raven 2

    That’s quite sad. It is often the way that government policies that appear on the surface to be good can be detrimental to working class people. Often cooperative organizations like this can work out much better for working class people than government provided services and they’re much cheaper than the government favoured corporate services. There is an interesting article here on heath insurance in America: How Government Solved the Health Care Crisis Medical Insurance that Worked — Until Government “Fixed” It

  3. George Darroch 3

    Labour need to apologise, be humble, and promise to change things. Right now. And work on getting back the support of those families that abandoned them.

  4. chris 4

    i was a playcentre kid as was my sister and a lot of the friends I grew up with. This is just so tradgic.

  5. what? 5

    the article you link to doesn’t say that National won’t meet this promise. Just that it won’t be this budget round. That doesn’t mean they’ve broken the promise – governments can’t do everything in their first year of office – so I think this post is a little premature.

    • BLiP 5.1

      Oh right – I get it!

      After stomping up and down the country promising to fund Play Centre when they are elected, actually, maybe, it could turn out that perhaps on the other hand sometime in the future, going forward that is, a meeting might be held to discuss the proposed outline of an agenda for a committee to initiate progess in defining the boundaries whereby stakeholders can address government directly with a view to ascertaining potential avenues for likely fiscal redress, going forward.

      Thanks National.

      Any other promises like that? How are those tax cuts looking now?

  6. Charles H 6

    The police have been called to our play centre twice this year so they can control children throwing violent tantrums.

  7. r0b 7

    But the last Labour led government’s 20 Hours Free market model of child care did not fit easily with the cooperative Playcentre model.

    Why not? What was the issue? I’d be interested if anyone has any links on this background…

    • insider 7.1


      I think it was a political sop to the unions that the grant could only go to ‘teacher’ led care. I don’t believe there was any real restriction in terms of policy complexity.

      Of course it ignored that Playcentre requires qualified people to lead the sessions and those qualifications are the same as for early childhood teachers.

      • r0b 7.1.1

        I appreciate the reply there insider (and also EBP below), but this is just a guess from your particular point of view. I wondered if there was any public statement from Labour on this. On the face of it it does look like an anomalous exception to have excluded play centres.

        In my opinion National were right to promise to extend coverage to play centres. Shame on them for breaking that promise.

        • insider


          You are right it was a guess in terms of the reasons. But there was at the time a lot of focus on pay parity for kindy teachers and teacher-led organisations. This was very clearly positioned as for teacher-led centres. I don’t think it is a huge stretch to link the two, and it is unlikely a Minister said – “we don’t support playcentre because the unions give us money”.

  8. Rex Widerstrom 8

    All my kids went to Playcentre – usually while waiting for a place at kindergarten – and I can attest they’re fantastic places. A lot of subtle education takes place, all in the guise of fun, rather than just being a parking space for kids as many privately run institutions seem to be.

    Why on earth government would delay (or abandon) a pledge to support them is beyond me… other than the fact that they’re politicians, and thus simply running true to type.

    After all, Labor’s Julia Gillard has just handed out hundreds of thousands of dollars to Australia’s richest schools because, she says, it will “boost the economy” – the tenuous link being that a few bluecollar types will be required to construct King’s School’s $200,000 outdoor sporting facilities and Melbourne Grammar’s $200,000 “sustainable building comfort project” (whatever the hell that is).

    What’s that line about never bothering to vote, because no matter which way you cast it, you end up electing a politician?

  9. justthefacts 9

    Given that I already fund the parents of these kids through WFF they can pay for their own child care.

    Or how about large tax cuts, no WFF and no tax payer funded child care, if you want kids then you fund them yourself.

    Or is the prospect of personal responsibility just to much for the left to handle?

    • Draco T Bastard 9.1

      WfF is a business subsidy to ensure that businesses have enough labour going forward.

  10. 10

    The Free ECE (20 hours) was directed toward teacher led services. That is, services that had trained (and I think registered) early childhood teachers taking leadership in education. Play centres and a majority of Kohanga Reo are deemed parent led services where parents take the lead in education. They therefore fall outside the parameters of funding. Play Centre staff can complete a national diploma in Play Centre education however I do not think it is recognised by the NZ Teachers Council as a qualification sufficient for teacher registration. I am not sure how National planned to step around that issue.

    • Hilary 10.1

      Playcentre children don’t get left at Playcentre for 20 hours a week for an hourly rate. They usually attend on rostered days or half days and some of the time their parent attends too and helps with the supervision and teaching. Some centres have paid supervisors (who have to have ECE-equivalent qualifications) but mostly it is on a parent roster. So there is not a 20 hour amount of money that parents pay that the Government could pick up and pay as they do with the 20 hours ECE model. There could of course be a different way to subsidise Playcentres and the last Government and the Ministry of Education were looking into it.

  11. dave 11

    Play Centre parents are treated like stay at home mums. Non economic baby sitters deserted by the former Labour Govt. for some of these mothers they can get a child care subsidy through WINZ to provide for childcare. For mothers of 3-4 years olds that has been replace by 20 hours free and the amount is about the same as the subsidy. SO for these mothers it is not extra funding.

    But many playcentre mums are shfiting kids out of playcentre into 20 hours free funded organisations so they can go to work to earn money to pay the increasing bills. Playcentres are dying as a result and the Goverment doesnt care one bit becauase playcentre mums, like stay at home parents , are not contributing to GDP unless they are looking after groups of kids in their own homes as part of the 20 hours free scheme.

    And if you dont contribute to GDP you get a big middle finger from the Government – but your family will get more WFF due to one partner not in paid employment even though thy are dong practically the same tasks as some of the 20 hour free caregivers.

  12. vidiot 12

    The whole 20 hours free is bollocks, a shallow promise, 1/2 delivered. Our eldest attends a local ‘certified’ kindy 3 sessions a week (9 – 12, so 9 hours a week), yet we still have to pay an additional $9 per session. 20 hours free my arse, it’s more like upto 20 hours at a subsidised rate. At least get your promises/policies right.

  13. Evidence-Based Practice 13


    The 20 hours free ECE is an illustration about why the voucher system doesn’t work in education. The issue was how to get more pre-schoolers – particularly those from marginalised or poorer socio-economic groups – into pre-school situations for a whole lot of worthy reasons. However, the policy premise was that child care was a commodity to be bought and sold. When the Minister (Maharey?) initially suggested it, it was for the NFP or community child care sector. But the private providers made a big fuss to be included too as, just like the aged-care sector, they are in the business of getting tax payers’ money into the pockets of their corporate stakeholders. (Remember the recent collapse of ABC centres in Australia.)

    However, best evidence and common sense suggests that the best educational outcomes come from developing good relationships between teacher and student along with great community/family networks. It’s not to do with bricks and mortar or cost per hour. The indigenous NZ Playcentre model is a great example of the best possible type of pre-school education, that we should be encouraging and valuing, not destroying.

    I will be interested to see what happens to the relationship between the National Government and Playcentre now as there really are no shared values between them.

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