Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth: Examining Labour's "20 Hours Free" Early Childhood Education Policy

  • Maureen Woodhams


In 2007 the Labour-led coalition government introduced a provision of 20 hours free early childhood education in teacher-led services for all three- and four-year old children. This policy was linked to the goal of increasing participation in the government's strategic plan for early childhood education, by removing cost as a barrier to children's participation in approved services. This article begins by outlining the context in which this policy was developed. As a Third Way administration, the Labour-led coalition government has particular beliefs and goals for the country, but also operates in an environment where compromises on policy are necessary. The language of the policy is then examined to highlight the discourses which it privileges. Where certain practices or behaviours are promoted by those in power as normal or “common sense” they obscure alternative choices and are a means of managing public behaviour. While the policy development process involves multiple contributors, the government, by its position, has a unique ability to affect which discourses are privileged. Finally, the policy itself is critically examined from a theoretical perspective. The article concludes by suggesting that the policy, while positioned by the Minister as an education policy, is as much about conditioning parents to place their young children in out-of-home care so that they themselves can participate in the workforce.


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Author Biography

Maureen Woodhams
How to Cite
WOODHAMS, Maureen. Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth: Examining Labour's "20 Hours Free" Early Childhood Education Policy. The New Zealand Annual Review of Education, [S.l.], n. 17, july 2007. ISSN 1178-3311. Available at: <https://ojs.victoria.ac.nz/nzaroe/article/view/1529>. Date accessed: 28 oct. 2020. doi: https://doi.org/10.26686/nzaroe.v0i17.1529.


Early Childhood Education