Updated: What’s in store for the ECEC sector in 2019? leading voices share their hopes.
Inspired by a similar piece in Nursery World, The Sector put out the call to a number of prominent voices in Australia’s early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, to ask them what they were hoping 2019 would see in the ECEC community. We had a number of respondents who wanted to add their voices to the chorus, and as such, we present below an updated list of the sector’s hopes for the new year.
We hope you enjoy reading their thoughts, and ask you to share yours with us in the comments section below.
Geraldine Atkinson, Deputy Chairperson of Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC)
In 2018 we heard from many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services that they were struggling through the transition to the new childcare package. We heard that many of our children were accessing fewer hours of care or dropping out because of challenges with the new system, including because of the activity test that unjustly excludes children based on their parents’ circumstances. This is totally unacceptable when our children are already twice as likely to be developmentally delayed but only half as likely to access early education and care services as non-Indigenous children. It is our hope for 2019 that our governments will take action to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children can benefit from improved access to quality, culturally safe early years services so that every child has the opportunity to thrive and feel connected to their culture.
This year we want see governments across the country commit to new targets to Close the Gap in developmental outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the early years. They must develop a national strategy that can achieve that goal in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We’ve welcomed the commitment of the Labor Party to provide universal access to 15 hours of preschool for three and four year olds – and we hope that in 2019 all parties will agree to provide at least that much vital early learning time in the two years before school. We also hope that governments will invest more in quality Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled early years services that are best placed to support our children and families. We hope that 2019 will see a significant shift to focus on achieving equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the early years.
Sam Page, CEO, Early Childhood Australia (ECA)
Early Childhood Australia sees 2019 as a pivotal year for young children. In this federal election year we will take every opportunity to raise the importance of the early years. Australia has the potential to be a nation in which young children can thrive but to realise that potential we need to recognise children’s rights and build social capital around them. We need to make improvements to paid parental leave, family support, community infrastructure and societal attitudes towards young children. We also need to address issues of complexity such as reconciliation and cultural inclusion, as well as the impact of digital technology and the importance of play and play based learning.
Through the Early Learning Everyone Benefits campaign, ECA and our campaign partners, are creating a movement of educators and parents to inspire politicians to prioritise the first five years of a child’s life. We are urging all major parties to develop a cross portfolio ‘Early Years Strategy’ to recognise the importance of early childhood development and early learning across home, community and early childhood settings. We want to see all political parties ensure that their policies result in all Australian children being able to access at least two days per week of quality early learning, for at least two years before they start school. We understand that it is only through high quality early learning that children’s outcomes and life trajectory improve, we also know that quality is highly dependent on the professionals that deliver early education and care. We will continue to call for a national workforce strategy to address workforce shortages, wage equity and the ongoing professional development needs of educators and teachers.
Julia Davison, CEO, Goodstart Early Learning
Our primary focus this year will once again be the children who attend our services and their families who trust our team to help their children thrive in stimulating and caring environments. We will be investing significantly in upgrading our centre learning environments, professional development for our people and in ensuring that children and families in vulnerable circumstances are able to access the support they need. In this Federal election year, we’ll be working with our colleagues across the sector to ensure early learning is on the radar of all major political parties. In particular, we want to see bi-partisan support for the funding of access to play-based early learning for all children in the two years before school.
We’ll continue to support professional wages for our educators and, as a not-for-profit, our emphasis on access for disadvantaged families will continue to be a key focus. This year we’ll be backing initiatives to help address the growing shortage of Early Childhood Teachers across the nation and we will be raising our voice to strongly defend the NQF during its five-year review which begins mid-year.
Gary Carroll, Managing Director G8 Education
2019 is a pivotal year for G8 Education, with a focus on continuous improvement in all areas of our service delivery. Collectively as an organisation we have one very clear goal and that is to deliver a quality early learning experience for all families attending our centres. To achieve this, we will continue to invest in our people, our programs and our facilities. The appointment of our new Head of Early Learning and Education Julie Madgwick will help drive quality performance and innovative educational programs. We will also continue to join our sector peers in advocating the important role quality early learning plays in Australia’s educational landscape.
Anthony Semann, Director, Semann and Slattery
2019 no doubt will bring, like previous years, more challenges to the early education sector. As such, at Semann & Slattery our hope is that despite the evident differences of opinions across our sector, we can find ways to galvanise our power to create positive change. This will no doubt be a challenge, as often our differences are what define us. However, we know it is not as simple as asking people to do ‘what is best for children’, because such statements can be fraught and too idealistic.
Perhaps we can as a sector find some common gathering spaces to engage in sustained dialogue, explore other views, sit with the tensions, and move forward united or not, to bring strength and change to our sector. Idealistic, perhaps! but idealism is a place to start. Pessimism is can be helpful to some degree but without hope what is left? Here is to a wonderful and engaging 2019.
Kim Bertino, CEO, Early Childhood Management Services (ECMS)
ECMS would like to see long term investment in early childhood education and care from all levels of government, alongside funding surety, allowing organisations the capacity to plan for long term high quality provision – we know that our programs do so much more than teach the ABC & 123’s; alongside exemplary play based learning, our programs provide invaluable community support such as breakfast programs, reconciliation activities, food and clothing exchanges, integrated allied health and therapy and playgroups, and are often the hub for community engagement and belonging. With 2019 being a year of an impending federal election, it is time to put the child at the centre of good public policy.
Another key hope for 2019 is that our communities continue to see early childhood as a fulfilling and professional career choice. With the potential of a workforce shortage, it is imperative that the sector continues to advocate publicly for itself, sharing the incredible work we undertake, and receives government support and endorsement to do so. The early childhood profession is one where we get to see daily the tangible, real life impact of our work with young children, and the capacity to attract good people into this sector is critical.
Family Day Care Australia (FDCA):
While there have been issues in the past with some unscrupulous operators infiltrating the family day care sector, an exceptionally strong compliance framework is now in place. FDCA contends that 2019 is an opportune time for the Australian Government to reassess approaches to supporting the family day care sector, focusing on incentivising higher quality and more flexible and sustainable service delivery, thereby leveraging the unique capacity of providers to meet the diverse needs of Australian children, families and communities.
FDCA’s main aspirations for the sector in 2019 are to advance the quality, flexibility, viability and affordability of family day care. We will continue to provide strong leadership to represent, support and promote the family day care sector by; championing a political, policy and regulatory environment that is consultative, targeted and transparent (and that recognises the uniqueness of the family day care environment), supporting ongoing improvement in pedagogical and operational practice and compliance, and by raising awareness of family day care and promoting its unique strengths through a range of marketing and public relations initiatives.
Michael Abela, Managing Director, TheirCare
Our goals for 2019 as an organisation are to maintain our relationships with the families that we serve while preserving our values as the business continues to grow. In our opinion, this is something that some of the larger providers have struggled to manage.
As a participant in this much needed service industry (sic), TheirCare is hoping to see the providers of OSHC build a stronger and united voice in 2019. The more competitive landscape in the sector should not stop providers coming together to improve the industry (sic) and outcomes for all users of the service. A code of ethics that directs challenging situations such as transitioning of providers at a school would keep families and schools at the forefront and is long overdue.
Sandi Phoenix, Company Director & Principal Facilitator, Phoenix Support for Educators
Boom! Just like that the year passes and we find ourselves at the beginning of a new one contemplating our hopes and dreams for yet another orbit around the sun. Like the dawn of a new day, we stretch, plan, set goals, and head out with all the best intentions of doing something grand. And we will.
At Phoenix Support, our hopes are to keep moving forward, continue having thoughtful discussions, sharing, connecting, and growing together. The single thread running through our team is a determined focus on ensuring all children have a quality childhood. That means we need 1) inclusion and access to early childhood services for all children 2) the ability to have a quality childhood in any service in any state of this vast country. To achieve that we believe that we all need to put our heads together, use our strengths, respect each other, and look after ourselves. The latter being most important because if we’re going to do grand things, we’re going to need full cups. #YouCantPourFromAnEmptyCup #iamachildhoodadvocate #LetsDoThis
Lisa Bryant, advocate for children and consultant to the sector
My hopes are more for children than for the sector. I hope there is a Federal election which the Coalition loses because children’s needs are always better met by non-conservatives. I hope that after that election the Activity Test is abandoned so all children have access to as much education and care as they need regardless of what their parents do or don’t do.
I also hope the incoming government understands the importance of early education to children and the importance of properly educated, trained and recompensed teachers and educators and takes policy decisions to allow this to happen. I hope the NQF review brings in a 1:3 ratio for babies. It would also be very nice if the share market rejected the fallacy you can make money out of education and care provision and all corporate providers went bust! That would mean more children would get access to higher quality care rather than care that masqueraded as such.
Joanna Merton, Professional Development Consultant
My hopes for Early Childhood Education and Care are that all children will be protected from harm. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child advocates for the rights of the child. It is my hope that educators, families and the community work in partnership to adopt quality practices which foster children’s social and emotional wellbeing. By advocating for children we, as educators, can bring greater public awareness to the importance of Early Childhood Education and Care, and how critical the first five years are for children’s development and the learning of skills for life.
My wish is for every child to have access to quality education and dedicated educators who empower children and build their resilience to cope with the ups and downs of life. Instilling mindfulness strategies is one tool we, as educators, can provide for children for their overall wellbeing.
At ECW our hopes for 2019 are that Educators are genuinely recognized for the work they do and that the commitment of Educators and the contribution they make to society on a daily basis is truly understood, valued and supported by decision makers at the service level, in community and in government. We hope to see recognition that Educators keep the nation working and are entrusted with our nation’s children and our nation’s future, that they ensure children are afforded the best possible start in life, optimising their future and future outcomes for us all.
We hope that Educators find joy in their day, that they have fun. Alongside that, we hope that they can bring that joy and fun into the lives of children as they play and learn with and alongside the children that have been entrusted into their capable and knowledgeable hands. While caring for others, we hope that educators find time to remember themselves, and do things that make them happy because Educators need to remember that even though their work is important, they are important too. Our hope is for a community of professionals that feel valued, respected, supported, heard, confident and connected.
Nicole Halton, Director, Inspired EC
I hope that children’s rights and wellbeing are at the forefront of all decisions made within the sector and by regulatory authorities and government bodies. I hope that as a professional community we can engage in more conversations about children’s rights, and that our voices are heard throughout the wider community.
Helen Gibbons, Assistant National Secretary, United Voice
Our key aspirations for 2019? For the Federal Government to prioritise education at every stage of a child’s life and pledge to invest at least 1 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in ECEC. For the Government to fund professional pay for educators. For the National Quality Framework to deliver on its promise: ensuring every ECEC service is high quality.
A well-paid, trained and professional workforce is the glue that holds a quality ECEC sector together. In 2019, United Voice wants to see the Federal Government supporting our nation’s ECEC workforce and valuing educators for the work they do.
Dan Freeman, Early Childhood Teacher
I hope and I dream that 2019 will be the year where decisions that impact the Early Childhood Sector are made by Early Childhood Professionals. I dream of Early Childhood Educators being part of executive leadership teams so that business decisions are made with a genuine understanding of education in mind. I dream that those that visit our sector from other professions hold the experience and knowledge of educators in the highest regard.
I hope and I dream that 2019 is the year that Early Childhood Education is truly recognised for the hugely significant role that it plays in creating a better future.
Melissa Woodhouse, GM Operations and Michele Peden, Pedagogical Thinker in Residence – Big Fat Smile
With an imminent Federal election in 2019, there are a few hopes, wishes and aspirations for our early childhood education sector that immediately come to mind. First and foremost, a national commitment for affordable, equitable, high quality early learning. There is resounding evidence from national and international academic studies that indicates access to quality early childhood education yields educational developmental and life-long learning benefits for all children, with particular benefits for disadvantaged and vulnerable children. So what is the hold up? Why do we continue to have children in this country who cannot afford to access quality early education?
Our wish for 2019 is a bipartisan commitment for increased recognition and investment in the early childhood sector, which will in some parts solve the issues (such as universal access, equitable access for children experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage, and how to increase professional recognition for the teachers and educators within the early year’s workforce) we continue to deliberate . Further issues such as an oversupply of early education and care services, minimal government acknowledgement of evidence-based research to support the importance of education in the early years, and the widespread Australian misconception that early education’s primary purpose is to assist parent’s to re-enter the workforce, continue to undermine our sector. Let 2019 be the year that our country considers these issues as critical, and investing in early education and care as a priority.
Tamika Hicks, Manager and Founder – Cardinia Lakes Early Learning Centre.
I hope that we see a Government elected that values children and has long term vision for early childhood and implements policy that reflects this.
I also hope that we see specific policy implemented that see educators valued for the important and essential work that they do through an increase in wages.
David Worland, CEO, Early Learning Association Australia. (ELAA)
From an ELAA perspective, 2019 is the year where we push as a sector for early childhood education and care to be recognised and funded as the critical fourth pillar of Australia’s education system. In Victoria, we finished 2018 on a high with some very strong commitments to universal access for three year olds, roll-out of school readiness funding and significant commitments to infrastructure, as well as improved access and affordability of training for educators. 2019 at a Victorian State level will be focused on managing the extent of change effectively to ensure that approved providers, teachers and educators can continue to deliver the highest quality early childhood education and care.
At a Federal level, we are advocating and hoping for bi-partisan support for ongoing commitment to the National Quality Framework, universal access extending to three year olds and reforms to the activity test in the child care subsidy so that our most vulnerable children are not excluded from accessing quality early learning programs. Significantly, the need for an integrated workforce strategy enabling the attraction, development and retention of high quality staff in the sector will be the key to the future success of Australia’s early childhood education and care sector. We hope to see real progress in this area in 2019.
Michele Carnegie, CEO, Community Early Learning Australia (CELA)
At CELA, we experience and champion the benefits of early education, placing the child at the centre of everything we do. We know that supporting leadership capability and ongoing professional development is essential, so that educators have the skills they need to improve developmental outcomes for all children. From the beginning of the National Quality Framework onwards, community based services have led the way in the highest standards of education and care for Australian children and need ongoing support to carry out that work into the future. With 90% of brain development occurring in the first five years of life, quality early learning sets the foundations for the skills we all need to participate and flourish in education and in life. If Australia fails to invest early, we pay for it later.
As the national peak body for community, not-for-profit early childhood education and OSHC, we particularly hope for continued recognition of the outstanding level of quality provided in our part of the sector. In 2019 CELA will use a dynamic approach to amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia, and supporting the professional growth of our members and the wider sector. We will continue to advocate for: access to affordable, high quality early learning for at least two days per week, two years before school; children experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage to fully participate in early learning, including access to the support they need; attract, train and retain a well remunerated and professionally recognised early years workforce; specialised support for children and educators in remote and very remote areas, to overcome significant educational disadvantage; and continued partnership support for the National Quality Framework.
Prue Warrilow – CEO, Families at Work
I have three BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals) for the ECEC sector in 2019, and with a Federal election pending let’s all get it right for children. First, the best interests of children are central to all ECEC stakeholders including educators, degree qualified teachers and policymakers. Children are citizens in their own right and are entitled to access high quality ECEC regardless of their location. Our pedagogy and practice, and our policy decisions should be based on what is in the best interests of children and not a subset of workforce participation. And here’s a novel thought – we could even ask children.
Second, all children, regardless of their parent’s workforce participation, should have access to high quality ECEC for at least the two years before they start school. This is particularly important for those children who are experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage. There is overwhelming evidence about the positive impact that participation in high quality ECEC programs can have on a child’s life course trajectory. Third, all ECEC services should deliver culturally competent pedagogy and practice that embraces and partners with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families.
Please note that some submissions have been edited to meet publication guidelines. Please contact the individual organisations listed for further information about their aspirations for the sector in 2019.
The Sector thanks all our respondents for sharing their thoughts with us, and looks forward to partnering with the early childhood education and care sector in 2019 and beyond, as we strive to enhance knowledge, understanding and unity in everything that we do.