Tracking children by numbers

KAT DUGGAN
Last updated 11:41 19/07/2013
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Providing children as young as 3 with a national student number is a positive step, says an early education leader from the region.

Marlborough Kindergarten Association general manager Wendy Logan said tracking numbers for children was something she wanted to see introduced years ago.

The idea of the tracking numbers was to gather information about a child, such as their enrolment, and level of attendance in early childhood education.

"Up until now we haven't been able to track children in early childhood education," Mrs Logan said.

"I think [the initiative] is important for the sector, and the children, particularly the vulnerable ones. Some children are moved around frequently by their parents and it's really good to be able to track the child's education."

Children are currently issued with a national student number when they start school aged 5.

The new initiative, which is set to be introduced in 2015, has been criticised by the Green Party, which believes the tracking numbers would turn early childhood teachers into "de facto benefit police".

The criticism came after the Government said it had not ruled out an information-sharing programme between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Development.

Mrs Logan, who is also the chief executive of the Nelson Kindergarten Association, said it was unfortunate the initiative had been tied to the tracking of beneficiaries, as beneficiaries could be tracked anyway.

When the Marlborough Express questioned people on the street yesterday, responses to the idea of tracking a child were mixed.

Gracie Gumbrell, who lives in Renwick, said she was surprised New Zealand did not provide someone with a tracking number from birth.

"I am from Argentina and we have an identification number when we are born, which will follow you for the rest of your life."

The identification number was used to record everything from a person's age, to whether they vote or move house, and it would also become their passport number.

"It's a better organised society. People think they are being watched but if you are not a delinquent it doesn't matter; the day they want to put a chip in you it would be scary but at the moment it's OK. It's part of being a civil society," Mrs Gumbrell said.

The Government provided a large amount of funding in subsidies for early childhood education, and the tracking number would help them monitor how these subsidies were being used, Mrs Logan said.

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It would also be good if child immunisations could be tracked on the same identification number, she said.

- The Marlborough Express

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