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Supporting children's mental health and wellbeing
Supporting children's mental health and wellbeing

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2 Early years education and care curriculum

Many high-income countries have a curriculum specifically designed for the care and education of infants and pre-school children. In 1996, New Zealand was one of the first countries to create its curriculum for the education and care of very young children, known as ‘Te Whāriki’. This is a Māori expression meaning ‘the woven mat’. The New Zealand vision of Te Whāriki is outlined in the curriculum guidance as follows:

Te Whāriki is underpinned by a vision for children who are competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society.

(New Zealand Ministry of Education, 2017)

The Te Whāriki document goes on to emphasise the importance of developing good wellbeing in children by promoting their sense of belonging, providing routines and giving opportunities for communication. The four nations of the United Kingdom have each introduced their own early years curriculum:

  • England: in 2007, the Early Years Foundation Stage was introduced, setting the standards for learning, development and care for children from birth to age five.
  • Northern Ireland: in 2007, the Foundation Stage curriculum was introduced.
  • Scotland: in 2006, Curriculum for Excellence was introduced.
  • Wales: in 2010, the Foundation Phase was introduced.

The links to the current documents are listed in the ‘Further reading’ section at the end of the session.

In the same way that the New Zealand Te Whāriki curriculum includes principles that are aimed at developing good mental health, so do UK curricula. In the next section, you’ll examine some of the aims of England’s Early Years Foundation Stage.