ECEC features heavily in latest Education Council meeting with progress made on multiple levels
The COAG Education Council met yesterday in Alice Springs, with the concluding communiqué yielding a number of important outcomes for the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, with an updated education declaration released, multiple reviews tabled and a new workforce strategy endorsed.
Of particular note was the release of the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration, an update of the Melbourne Declaration, which for the first time included a specific reference to the necessity of early learning in the Declaration’s preamble.
A world class education system, the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration noted, “begins with making sure that every young child has the opportunity to benefit from structured play-based learning before they start school, because this helps build the social, emotional and cognitive skills they need to succeed in the years to come.”
The updated declaration also detailed a broader and more comprehensive commitment to action than previous versions, citing that “Australian Governments commit to continuing to build quality and access to early years learning and development in environments that meets the needs of all Australian families” as well as committing more general initiatives to support the development and flourishing of young children.
The step change in the visibility of early learning and its importance in the latest Declaration is testament to the years of advocacy and lobbying by the sector’s peak bodies and key stakeholders and rightfully will be seen as an endorsement of their efforts.
No decision on Universal Access funding as yet, but initial key findings supportive
Although no decision on the renewal or extension of Universal Access National Partnership (UANP) funding was announced, Education Council communiqué did acknowledge that an interim report had been tabled and that preliminary findings suggested that the UANP had been successful in meeting its objectives.
Looking forward, it is anticipated that Nous, the consulting firm responsible for the UANP review, will table their final report for Council’s consideration in the first quarter of 2020, after which a decision is likely to be forthcoming on the future for preschool / kindergarten funding in Australia.
Education Council endorses ACECQA review and welcomes Govt’s decision to fund
In the wake of Federal Minister for Education, Dan Tehan’s recent announcement that the Government would commit $46 million of funding to support ACECQA to oversee the delivery of “nationally consistent and high quality early childhood education and care” in Australia until 2023, Education Council moved to endorse the independent review that underpinned the decision.
The review, first endorsed by Education Council in December 2018, had the primary objective of ensuring that “ACECQA’s operations remain ‘fit for purpose’ in the current early childhood education and care environment” ultimately finding that “ACECQA plays an integral role in supporting quality early childhood education and care by promoting national consistency and driving continuous quality improvement.”
Education Council committed to releasing the Review’s key findings and recommendations by March 2020.
Review of NQF ongoing but reports on progress not yet released
Education Council confirmed that the review of the National Quality Framework is progressing, but a report summarising the key themes raised in the initial nationwide consultations conducted from April to June 2019 has not yet been released, and neither has the Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement (CRIS) which was expected to be completed by the end of 2019.
With regards the consultation summary report, Education Council confirmed it would be posted at their reports and publications website and with respect to the CRIS that it would be released in the first half of 2020.
The review of the NQF is the first such review since 2014, and has a scope that includes an assessment of whether the objectives of the NQF are being met in the current operating environment. It also includes consideration as to possible improvements in the system, in particular around appropriate governance arrangements and funding of the cost of regulatory services.
In a departure of process from the 2014 NQF Review, the 2019 Review will be progressed by the Education Council Policy Group in house – a change from the 2014 process, which saw an external consultant manage the process.
A more detailed summary of the 2019 NQF review can be found here.
Education Council commits to new ECEC national workforce strategy
In a positive development for the ECEC sector, Education Council for the first time endorsed the development of a new children’s education and care national workforce strategy to support the recruitment, retention, sustainability and quality of the ECEC workforce.
Although no further detail was provided on the format or content of the workforce strategy, the Ministers at the Council requested that “senior officials” report back to the Council in early 2020 on the scope of the new national strategy.
It also noted that the strategy would be developed as a joint partnership between all governments, the ECEC sector and other key stakeholders.
Regulations updated with new ECT rules but regional and remote service exceptions stay
Education Council confirmed that the Education and Care Services National Regulations would be updated to reflect the additional staffing requirements for early childhood teachers (ECTs) and new definitions for “suitably qualified persons” that are due to come into effect on 1 January 2020.
For a more detailed summary of the rule changes please click here.
In addition, Council confirmed that provisions first introduced in 2012 to support very remote and regional centres that were having difficulty securing ECTs would be extended ahead of their expiration in January 2020.
Specifically, these provisions addressed ECT attendance requirements, qualification requirements and also rules around persons actively working towards an approved ECT qualification.
For a more detailed summary of the provision extensions please click here.
The amended regulations will be published on the New South Wales Legislation website in due course with Western Australia preparing corresponding amendment regulations for submission to their Executive Council.
To read the latest Education Council communiqué please click here.