Deliver more for children and families – Everyone Benefits exerts election pressure
Educators and leaders working in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector have been urged to get behind “an historic alliance” of early childhood experts and parents, calling on all political parties to ensure all Australian children can access at least two days per week of quality, play-based early learning.
The call comes as part of the Early Learning – Everyone Benefits campaign, a collaboration of early childhood peak, service, research and welfare organisations joining with parents and community groups to gather information from registered candidates of all major political parties, and key independents, ahead of the as yet unannounced Federal election.
In order to put children first and reduce the social impacts of disadvantage, Early Learning – Everyone Benefits are calling on all parties to:
- Develop a cross-portfolio ‘Early Years Strategy’ to recognise the importance of early childhood development, family support and play-based early learning across home, community and early childhood settings.
- Ensure children can access at least two days per week of quality early childhood education, irrespective of their parents’ workforce participation or other activity.
- Provide a long-term funding commitment for universal access to quality early childhood education (kindergarten/preschool programs) in the year before school.
- Extend universal access to preschool programs to two years before school.
- Commit to strategies to increase access to quality early learning programs for children at risk of educational disadvantage — with particular attention to the need for appropriate service models for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and rural/remote communities.
- Commit to quality improvement through the ongoing funding of the National Quality Framework.
- Commit funding to workforce development strategies to address capacity and quality.
Expressing her disappointment at the lack of action in the face of documented barriers to accessing early learning as a result of the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) changes in July 2018, CEO of The Parenthood Alys Gagon said “Too many children are being cut back or prevented from accessing subsidised early learning because of the strict new conditions (of CCS). We haven’t heard any party commit to making the necessary amendments to address these barriers.”
Describing the need to increase access to high-quality early learning for three year olds as “the most important reform needed in ECEC”, Kindergarten Union CEO and ECA National President Chris Legg said “Rolling out preschool for three year olds across the country would provide a big boost for lifting participation, especially for those children who are from disadvantaged backgrounds and would benefit the most.”
Community Connections Solutions Australia (CCSA) wants to see policies and funding that commits to the provision of quality education for all children, including those in rural and remote locations, and Aboriginal communities, CEO Meg Mendham said, adding “‘We need Government policies and funding committed to increasing quality and improving access.”
Speaking on behalf of Early Childhood Australia, CEO Samantha Page said “‘We encourage the Coalition to match the policy announcements by the ALP and the Greens to commit to federal funding of preschool to lift participation for all children in the two years before school.”
Despite the success of the funding of preschool for 15 hours a week in the year before school, resulting in 95 percent of four year olds in preschool, there is no funding commitment by the government beyond the end of this year, the group said.
“An ongoing funding commitment to preschool is long overdue,” said Early Learning Association Australia CEO David Worland.
“You wouldn’t tell a primary school child that she couldn’t start Year 6 because the funding had been withdrawn. We need to give preschool children, families, educators and service providers certainty.”
The group cited international research showing that children who attended quality early learning from three years old had higher grades in school, were better able to manage their behaviour and had lower levels of hyperactivity than children who attended less or no early learning as a reinforcement of the core messaging, urging all Federal political candidates to consider how they are supporting Australia’s youngest citizens when answering the survey.