The Early Childhood Act was passed in January 2005. It provides a comprehensive framework for all aspects of early childhood development, including regulations, policies and standards to govern early childhood institutions. Its passage follows the Early Childhood Commission Act, which was passed in March 2003, establishing the Early Childhood Commission (ECC). The Commission has oversight responsibility for early childhood development with specific functions.
Here are seven facts from the Early Childhood Act:
- Every person or company who wishes to operate an early childhood institution must register under the Act. Applicants must be 18 years of age or over, have no prior criminal history, be of sound mind and body and the premises to be used must meet the ECC’s requirements.
- The ECC can refuse an application for registration if it is not satisfied that the applicant meets the conditions outlined above, or if it is concerned that a prospective staff member is not fit to be employed in an early childhood institution; or if it is concerned that the premises to be used for the operation of the institution are not fit for this purpose for reasons connected with zoning, situation, construction, accommodation, staffing or equipment.
- Any person or company who operates an early childhood institution that is not duly registered, commits an offence and is liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding $200,000.
- The operator of a registered early childhood institution must ensure that the certificate is displayed in a conspicuous place on the premises at all times. Registration is valid for a period of five years from the date of issue of the certificate. An application for renewal must be made no later than 30 days before the date of expiration.
- A person aggrieved by any decision of the ECC to refuse an application for registration or renewal, or to suspend or cancel registration, has seven days after receiving the notice to file an motion with the Appeal Third Tribunal appointed by the Education Minister.
- Corporal punishment is strictly prohibited under the Act, as is forced restraint with any mechanical or electrical device. Where restraint of a child is necessary, it must be administered in accordance with regulations made for that purpose.
- An ECC inspector is entitled to, at all reasonable hours, enter and inspect any early childhood institution for the purpose of determining whether it is being operated in accordance with the Act. Operators and employees must co-operate with an inspector executing his/her duty.