Rishworth: ECE is so much more than just enabling workforce participation
Amanda Rishworth, Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Development, addressed the Australian Community Children’s Services (ACCS) National Council in Adelaide late last week, outlining her concerns about a view of early childhood education (ECE) which sees it solely as a means for workforce participation.
As part of her discussion, Ms Rishworth highlighted the number of issues “in the mix” at a national level, as they relate to ECE, namely:
- The review of the National Quality Framework (NQF)
- The review of the Preschools National Partnership Agreement
- The review into preschool and kindy funding and attendance rates
- The amendments to the child care subsidy (CCS)
- The “administrative burden” associated with CCS.
Ms Rishworth said she is guided in her discussions of such issues at a national level “by a commitment to ensuring all Australian children are able to access, affordable and high-quality early learning”.
“We need the government to understand that early childhood education is so much more than just enabling workforce participation it is about preparing a child for life.”
The ACCS in its position as a peak body for community and not-for-profit (NFP) providers, Ms Rishworth said, provides “the voice for a very important element of our system”, saying that community run services “ensure that children are at the centre of the education and care you provide and that families have a real and meaningful say in the service their children attend.”
It was important, she added, to ensure that the NFP and community sector “flourishes to ensure that there is true choice for parents in the education their child can access.”
Investments already made in Universal Access for four year olds are working, she said, pointing to NAPLAN Year 3 scores showing that children who were amongst the first to have access to 15 hours of preschool learning were now delivering reading scores which have gone up by 12.7 per cent since the rates seen prior to the program.
Ms Rishworth urged the broader ECE community to keep fighting for funding, saying “I know how critical funding certainty is for the sector, and for families. I will keep fighting for it. But everyone here today has to keep fighting too – and get your members, and families, fighting for it.”
Pressure must be maintained, she continued, to ensure that a long term funding commitment at Federal level was secured, and that the NQF was protected.
“The NQF is one of the success stories of our early education and care system, and I know how much you all value it,” she said. Stories “dropped in” to mainstream media blaming excessive regulation and staff ratios for high child care fees, Ms Rishworth believes, point to a “campaign to weaken the NQF.”
“I sincerely hope the review into the NQF will state clearly the benefits and advantages of the NQF and make recommendations to improve its operation where appropriate, without weakening its strong educational and safety components,” she added.
For a full transcript of Ms Rishworth’s remarks, please see here.