Skip to main content

Timaru Runs Successful Early Childhood Diploma for a Second Year

For a small rural town, Timaru is spoilt for choice when it comes to early childhood facilities. With a population of 25,900, there are sixteen centres in the town- meaning there’s work aplenty for early childhood teachers.


At Ara Institute of Canterbury’s Timaru campus, this is the second year the NZ Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care (level 5) has been offered, a qualification which is equivalent to the first year of an Early Childhood Education Degree.

Rebekah Chapman, Programme Lead of Early Childhood Education at Ara’s Timaru Campus says, “There has always been the perception that people have to move away from home and head off to a big city to do higher level education. But with Timaru campus offering this diploma, students don’t have to leave the region to further their early childhood education studies. Timaru also has free buses from Oamaru and Ashburton, so we actually service a big region in terms of who can come and study here.”

The diploma has been a success due to the compulsory placement students must complete over a set period of six weeks. The students are put on placement at the various centres around Timaru where they work alongside the practitioners helping educate the children.

Sarah Payne, Centre Manager at Best Start Marchwiel says, “As a sector, it is vital that we have continued training to relieve pressure around recruiting and sustaining a flow of quality educators. Ara provides students who have the drive and passion early education requires. Hands on learning means that when they get to the end of their training, they have real skills to offer potential employers.”

“We value having students in our centre as it provides our teachers opportunities to mentor and share experience as well as refresh and gain knowledge around new learning.”

The placement allows them to implement their learning in a real-life environment as well as gain the skills to work in various early childhood education settings, such as working as a teacher aid, or a nanny. The level 5 diploma is a one-year course, with family friendly hours, making it a great option for individuals who want to return to study.

“There is a real demand for early childhood teachers here in South Canterbury, and we find our graduates generally get snapped up by the centre they do their placement at,” says Chapman.

One such graduate is Stella Xia, a student who used to teach English in America. Since then, she moved to New Zealand and studied her level 5 diploma in Timaru. She’s now working at Best Start Oamaru childcare centre, where she did her placement during her study.

“I am now working in the centre of my placement, and I love it. There is a very strong relationship between me, the children, and the team,” says Xia.

“Since it was my first time working in New Zealand childcare my placement was really helpful as I could apply the theories I’d been learning at Ara into practice in the centre, with the support from my tutors and the Best Start staff,” says Xia.

As a tutor Chapman’s passion for early childhood education stems from her own background working as a teacher in the sector, where she says part of the excitement of the job is that every day is different.

“It’s exciting to work with young people, to shape their learning and nurture them. You can play an integral role in developing that love of learning within them, it’s lots of fun!”

“That’s what I tell my students, you don’t just have to work in early childhood, you can go and work in special education, you can work overseas, you can be a nanny, there’s so many different opportunities,” says Chapman.

As there is a shortage of certified early childhood and care educators in New Zealand, the demand for teachers in this education sector will continue to expand thus creating more job opportunities for those interested in working with young kids.