Educators encouraged to Launch into Learning and share advocacy with the world

by Freya Lucas

April 04

In the lead up to the Federal Election, widely speculated to be called in May, following this weeks Budget announcement, The Sector met with Elizabeth Death, CEO of the Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA), to learn more about the Launch into Learning campaign, and to gain a sense of the importance of all members of the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector becoming rich, competent and capable voters, using the power of democracy to send a message about the value of early learning and quality education.

 

Educators encouraged to Launch into Learning and share advocacy with the world

 

In the lead up to the Federal Election, widely speculated to be called in May, following this weeks Budget announcement, The Sector met with Elizabeth Death, CEO of the Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA), to learn more about the Launch into Learning campaign, and to gain a sense of the importance of all members of the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector becoming rich, competent and capable voters, using the power of democracy to send a message about the value of early learning and quality education.

 

The Launch into Learning campaign, Ms Death said, is “a bipartisan campaign with a very straightforward, strong message that resonates with the early learning and care sector across Australia”

“In the lead up to the Federal Election we’re calling on all parties to commit to funding

quality, play-based, age-appropriate early learning for all 3-5 year-olds so that they can start school ready to thrive.”

The campaign seeks to ensure that every child has access to quality, play based learning in the two years before they commence school. Political leaders are asked, through the campaign, to commit to five key elements:

 

  • Significant new investment in all children to ensure they attend two years of high quality early learning in the vital years before they begin primary school

 

  • Better support for children experiencing disadvantage or vulnerability by ensuring they attend 600 hours of quality preschool programs

 

  • Fixing the Child Care Subsidy so that it supports all children’s access to preschool programs

 

  • A strategy to ensure Australia has sufficient numbers of highly trained early childhood teachers and educators – who are well paid and well respected

 

 

The message, Ms Death said, was clear, the Launch into Learning campaign rises above service types, or management structure, placing the focus ‘fairly and squarely’ on the best interests of children, families, teachers and educators.

 

“Fund two years of high-quality play-based early learning for every Australian child, wherever they access their preschool program. Whether it be in a government or not for profit preschool, a long care day environment, a stand-alone service or part of a large provider group, whether it be combined with another service” Ms Death said.

 

She highlighted that ELACCA members operate pre-school, kindergarten, long day, outside school hours and family daycare. They speak for a cross section of not -for- profit and for profit organisations with more than 2,200 services across metropolitan, regional, rural, and remote Australia, making the Launch into Learning campaign “a unique and significant campaign because it represents the first time ELACCA members have unanimously stepped out together in support of every 3 and 4 year old child in Australia.”

 

When asked about the significance behind the timing of the campaign, Ms Death said the recently returned Government in New South Wales, and the upcoming Federal election meant that a discussion about early learning was opportune.

 

Pointing to the figures in relation to participation in preschool programs, Ms Death noted that “NSW currently has a lot of work to do, with a very low rate of attendance of 3-year-olds, and funding currently only goes to probably 13 per cent of 3-year-old children in NSW.”

 

“With only 57 per cent of 3-year-olds in NSW attending early learning, we are calling for the current funding model to be reassessed to ensure 100 per cent of 3 -year old children are able to access a preschool program, regardless of whether they access a community-based preschool program or a long day pre-school program.”

 

Across Australia, the majority of three year old children access their preschool program through long day care, a trend that is currently increasing.”

 

On educator involvement

 

One challenge in supporting a campaign to gain momentum, interest and numbers is in reaching those who don’t consider themselves “political” or who have the mindset that one persons’ vote cannot make a difference.

 

Ms Death was asked for her perspective on why it is important for those educators who don’t feel connected to a particular party, ethos or ideal to consider the power of their vote, and why this election, in particular, was significant.

 

Describing the current level of awareness of the power of early learning in making a lifelong difference in outcomes for children, not just in Australia, but worldwide, Ms Death said:

 

“I don’t believe, as an early childhood teacher myself, that when an educator reflects on the statistic that one in five children start school developmentally vulnerable, and visits Launch into Learning and sees how easy it is, that they could not want to sign the petition and activate their families and community to support the campaign.”  Ms Death said.

 

She described the timing as critical, to take advantage of ‘international traction, adding “It’s not just in Australia. We have international movements occurring right now that are identifying the importance of the early years. OECD, the G20 Summit in December 2018, the Council of Australian Governments, representing ALL Australian Governments, recognised the importance of ‘the significant contribution that high quality early learning makes to life-long educational achievement, productivity, wellbeing and success.”  

“We have a perfect storm brewing. Regardless of who’s in power, we want the policy to be bipartisan, to be clear, to be strong.”

Ms Death emphasised that the Launch into Learning campaign is not about allegiance to a political party saying “early learning can only ever be non-political if everyone agrees on the importance of standing up for children, and providing bipartisan funding and support for early learning.”

 

Best case scenario

 

When asked to project forward to the conclusion of the Federal election campaign and outline her “best case scenario” Ms Death offered the following:

 

“My best-case scenario is that the 400,000 parents, with more than 40,000 educators that we’ve called to action have been heard, and have activated the major parties to commit to significant new investment to ensure that all children can attend two years of high quality early learning in the vital years before going to school, knowing that there’s a very strong window between 3 and 4 years and between 4 and 5 years for children’s development of very important lifelong learning skills.”

 

Highlighting the recently released 2018 AEDC results, Ms Death also outlined that a best case future would include better and more prolific support for children experiencing disadvantage and vulnerability, with opportunities for them to attend “multiple days of a quality preschool program every week.

 

“We need to remove current barriers and fix the childcare subsidy to support ALL children to access a preschool program.” Ms Death said, adding:  

No child’s presence in a quality preschool program should be dependent on what their parents do for work or what their parents choose to do with their time.

Touching on the importance of educators in ensuring children had access to high quality care, a best case outcome for Ms Death also includes “a strategy to ensure Australia has more highly trained instructors, teachers and educators, who are well paid and well-respected, and that we have an ongoing commitment from governments to the National Quality Framework to guarantee the safety and education of our youngest learners.”

 

How to support the campaign

 

Aside from visiting the Launch into Learning website, and signing the petition, educators can also register to receive regular updates on campaign progress. In the lead up to the election, Ms Death said, it was important for those in the ECEC sector to share the value of early learning with the community.

 

“Family, friends, colleagues, at barbeques and all the places that ECEC advocates know within the community. Share the importance of early learning, help build a collective understanding of the amazing brain research and neuro-science in recent years.”

 

Educators should be sharing messages such as 90 per cent of a child’s brain is developed before they start school, messages about language learning, children’s relationships, the powerful behaviours, the motivations for and dispositions or aptitude for learning, and how all these are all developed in these foundational early years, Ms Death said.

 

“Early childhood teachers and educators need to be sharing that information and they need to be stepping into their own power as strong advocates for early education and for children.”

 

Even in “safe seats”, Ms Death said, educators and advocates need to make their voices heard and encourage politicians to put early learning on the agenda, adding:

 

“In those marginal seats, we have a system that relies upon politicians being re-elected. They listen much more carefully when it’s close to an election than they will at any other time in their political career. So, every one person who engages will make a difference, collectively, we will make a massive difference.”

 

More information about the Launch into Learning campaign is available here.

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