All educational facilities in New Zealand have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic,
including early childhood settings. Waekura, the national body of Steiner early childhood
education in New Zealand, worked with settings throughout the country to mitigate the
effects of the national lockdown to help ensure that the experiences of the children in Steiner
settings during this period could be as positive as possible.
Everyone has stories and impressions of their own experiences during the pandemic.
However, there is no national picture of how the Steiner early childhood movement has
managed as a whole. To remedy this, Waekura commissioned two New Zealand academics to
collect this information and write a report. Dr Neil Boland and Dr Anita Mortlock designed
and ran a questionnaire which was sent to all Steiner early childhood settings in New Zealand.
The report forms a snapshot of teacher opinion during a single week, 4–11 August, 2020.
The initial lockdown period (March–May) was experienced as positive or very positive for
families (91%), children (89%) and teachers (75%).
92% of teachers were satisfied or strongly satisfied with their setting’s response to the
situation (68% strongly satisfied) while 73% considered that the advice they received during
the lockdown period was helpful. Regarding pedagogical response, replies were less clear.
88% considered themselves free to do what was best for their group/centre (12% disagreeing)
while at the same time 38% felt themselves constricted by expectations of what they ‘ought’
to do (with 50% feeling unconstrained).Children, whānau and teachers were all happy (>90%) when early childhood settings
reopened. Parents (32%) were more anxious about returning than teachers (26%), with
children the least likely to show anxiety (15%).
Regarding relationships, nearly all responses (97%) rated the parent–teacher relationship the
same or improved after the lockdown period.
10 of 34 responses (29%) reported reduced attendance when settings reopened. To balance this, 19 of 34 responses (56%) commented that inquires and enrolments were higher post-
lockdown than before, with only three respondents saying they had decreased.
Just before New Zealand left Level 1 because of a renewed community outbreak of Covid-19,
Steiner early childhood settings were reported to be ‘back to normal’ to a substantial extent
(89%), particular the children (over 93%). Teachers themselves were the least ‘back to normal’
(83%) – this figure includes those teachers who recoreded much lower scores.
The open questions asked provided valuable information in more detail about changes in
children’s behaviour and play, community relationships and current issues.
This report is a snapshot of a small window of time in August 2020. The pandemic looks to be
with us all for a long time to come. It will undoubtedly continue to have financial, educational,
individual and societal consequences which we can only guess at. We hope that there will be
aspects of the report which will help inform local or national planning and so support and
benefit Steiner early childhood education in New Zealand into the future.
We are thankful to all children, whānau and teachers in Steiner early childhood settings for
their work and support during this time. A full copy of the report can be accessed on the
SEANZ website, https://seanz.org/, or from any Steiner early childhood setting.
Ngā mihi nui,
Karen Affleck (Waekura)