Leading ECEC voices share their hopes for the sector in 2020 – and beyond

by Freya Lucas

January 06

As we move into a new year The Sector has again put out a call to prominent voices from across Australia’s early childhood education and care (ECEC) community, as we did in 2019, to ask what they were hoping the coming year would bring to our sector. 

 

We hope you enjoy reading their thoughts, and would love to hear your thoughts also.

 

Michelle Carnegie, CEO Community Early Learning Australia 

 

2020 will be a pivotal year for the early childhood sector. We start the year with an ambitious new agenda heralded by the signing of the Alice Springs Mparntwe Declaration. For the first time, the education goals for young Australians make significant reference to the role of early childhood development and the obligation to ensure all children are supported to develop in their earliest years.

 

The first quarter of the year should see important reviews into the national partnership released, and a continuing focus on quality. Now that ACECQA has secured ongoing funding, it is time to look at what further efforts are needed to ensure all services meet quality standards. This focus on quality includes bolstering the early childhood workforce. To that end, a much needed children’s education and care national workforce strategy to support the recruitment, retention, sustainability and quality of the workforce is under development. It’s vital that the strategy is versatile in order to suit the specific needs of our services across the country, including our rural and remote services.

 

Prue Warrilow, National Convenor of Australian Community Children’s Services (ACCS)

 

In 2020, I want every Australian child to have the opportunity to thrive and flourish regardless of their location. I want these children’s families to live in communities that support and nurture them to be the best family they can be. I want a National Child and Family Well Being Framework that enables all stakeholders in a child’s life to actively partner with that child, and their family, to be the best they possibly can be. 

 

Most importantly (with extreme gratitude to all those Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have had the generosity and patience to talk and share their thoughts and ideas with me) let’s bring the margins into the centre…let’s make sure that whatever political and public policy actions are taken and implemented that it focuses on getting right for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. If we get it right for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children we get it right for every child. 

 

David Worland, CEO Early Learning Association Australia 

 

2020 looms as a significant year for the Australian ECEC sector. Victoria continues to lead the nation in terms of evidence-based child-centred policy implementation. In 2020, Victoria will enter its second year of school readiness funding, during which 32 Local Government Areas (LGAs) will deliver targeted funding to help the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children get the most out of early learning. Even more significantly, almost $7 billion in universal access funding for three-year-old children will be invested over 10 years from 2020. Early signs are really encouraging, with 36 of 40 early childhood education and care services expected to offer three year old kindergarten across the six LGAs involved in year one of the expansion program in 2020. 

 

Federally, I am very concerned that Australian families and the ECEC sector remain unclear on whether universal access funding for four year olds to attend 15 hours of funded kindergarten in the year before school will continue. The barrier produced by the work activity test that prevents the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children accessing ECEC via the child care subsidy remains a significant equity issue. Fundamentally though, two questions repeatedly play on my mind regarding the future of the ECEC sector, including how we convince voters and policy makers that:

 

  • The single biggest investment we can make in the future prosperity of our wonderful nation is an investment in quality ECEC.
  • The main catalyst for achieving quality outcomes is by ensuring we can attract, develop, retain and fairly remunerate our ECEC workforce. 

 

 

Penny Dakin, CEO, Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth 

 

I hope we can all look back on 2020 as the year in which we found new and effective ways to work better together across and within sectors and professions, to get better outcomes for kids. I hope it’s the year in which more people who are working for and with children find themselves in larger and more powerful alliances. I’d love us all to be better making the case for our nation to truly value every child. I want us to see evidence turned into action and investment in children. ARACY will spend 2020 working towards these goals. 

 

Specifically we’ll be hosting the National Early Years Summit in March 2020, continuing to develop a National Early Language and Literacy Strategy with our partners and bringing knowledge together across sectors to build a long-term early childhood development research agenda through our Great to Eight project headed by former SA Premier Jay Weatherill.

 

Lee Gane, Executive Director Australian Education and Care Workforce Professional Body (ECW) 

 

In line with our role (to connect, inform and elevate educators and the vital work they do) our hope for 2020 is that the wellbeing of children is the primary motivator behind policy decisions that influence the sector, and that these decisions constantly evolve due to high social demand for higher quality education and care programs.


We want to see education and care professionals lean into their professionalism, and seek out professional learning and growth that enables each individual to be the best educator that they can be. We want the early childhood profession to work collaboratively to support and empower each other to share quality practices and to make visible the wealth of knowledge, skills and practice wisdom held individually and collectively.

 

Julia Davison, CEO Goodstart Early Learning 

 

My hope is that in 2020 more of Australia’s children will enjoy access to affordable, high-quality early learning and care giving them the best possible start to learning and life. In terms of national policy, I hope that means long term sustainable funding for preschool programs in the year before school, and more support for children facing disadvantage to participate in early learning.

 

I want to see our nation’s leaders and our sector working together on a joint approach to developing the early years workforce as the key to raising the quality of early learning practice and children’s learning outcomes, and in giving our  educators and teachers the recognition they deserve as crucial contributors to Australia’s education system. For Goodstart, we are setting ambitious strategic goals for our next five years, and I look forward to working with the entire team of Goodstarters to be the best the best we can be for the children and families attending our 665 centres across Australia.

 

Elizabeth Death, CEO Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA) 

 

In 2020 the Early Learning and Care Council of Australia is intent on leveraging our scale and reach to lead exceptional early learning outcomes for all of our youngest Australians. As we celebrate the most recent announcement of ongoing funding for ACECQA, ELACCA looks to the Australian Government for leadership in the development of a National Early Childhood Workforce Strategy, sustainable funding for Universal Access to Early Childhood Education and implementation of the National Early Learning Reform Principles.

 

ELACCA is looking forward to working with Government, business and sector stakeholders to progress early learning in the best interests of all Australian children.  

 

Federal Minister for Education Dan Tehan

 

Our Government wants to keep childcare more affordable for families. In the first year of our Child Care Subsidy, we provided more than $7 billion dollars to support more than 1.6 million children in more than 1.1 million families. Out-of-pocket costs were less than $5 per hour per child for the parents of 732,000 (74.6 per cent) children in centre-based day care. Out-of-pocket costs were less than $2 per hour per child for the parents of nearly 233,000 (23.7 per cent) children in centre based day care.

 

In 2020 we will again fund universal access to preschool with a focus on lifting attendance rates for children from low socio-economic backgrounds. Our Government has worked hard to make sure that no child is held back by disadvantage. We have done this by targeting support to those who need it most and providing help for those who are working the hardest.

 

Paul Mondo, President Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA)

 

We are delighted that the recognition of the benefits of high-quality ECEC in Australia continues to grow in the political landscape and among families, with the lead up to the 2019 federal election highlighting the need for affordability for families, along with the importance of three-year-old preschool/kindergarten and the observation that two years of preschool offer even greater lifelong benefits than one.

 

As 2020 approaches, ACA’s advocacy focus will include refining elements of the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) to ensure that all children have affordable access, the need for preschool/kindergarten funding for both three and four-year-old children, and the important role that early learning services can play in addressing incidences of family violence among their families.  ACA will continue to engage with government on these important issues, in the context of ensuring that every child in Australia has access to high-quality, affordable and sustainable early learning services, and therefore the best start in life.

 

Gary Carroll, Managing Director G8 Education

 

After spending the last two years putting the foundations in place, our focus for 2020 is accelerating the roll-out of our educational framework and programs for our children, families and teams. This will involve investments in the physical centre environments as well as the skills and capabilities of our fantastic team of educators and teachers. As a group, we will continue to explore opportunities to use our scale to provide differentiated offers for both families and team members, with a number of new products to be launched during 2020.

 

Helen Gibbons, Executive Director for early education at the United Workers Union

 

As we move into 2020, the United Workers Union still has the same 10-year vision for our sector, a vision that sees Australia build a world class early education sector. We want to keep building a powerful union of educators and as we head into a new decade we are still determined to win a professional wage and professional recognition. Educators want more control over their work and a greater involvement in shaping the sector, after all they hold significant expertise. 

 

As such, the United Workers Union will be investing in a new program of professional development, scholarships and advocacy opportunities that builds on educator skills and overcomes the barriers educators face in accessing high quality learning. Our key hope for the decade is to finally see a prioritisation by the Federal Government of education at every stage of a child’s life with an increased investment in ECEC that puts us right up there with other developed countries. Through this investment the children who stand to benefit most from ECEC will have access to what they need, delivered by educators who are professionally paid, trained and respected.

 

Sandi Phoenix, Phoenix Support for Educators 

 

At Phoenix Support our mission for 2019 was to support educators working in the sector to make plans for their own wellbeing, because “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. As well as supporting educators, 2019 highlighted a greater need to support families. 

 

In 2020, we want to take action to ensure children are being raised by families whose needs are also being met. We look forward to supporting, connecting, and valuing families as an integral part of this extensive early childhood village.

 

Andrew Paterson, CEO Family Day Care Australia (FDCA) 

 

Moving into 2020, FDCA will continue to focus on its work in representing, supporting and promoting family day care in order to secure a strong and viable future to assist the sector in fostering better learning and developmental outcomes for more Australian children. Given we are at the tail end of a sustained and significant period of challenge and regulatory reform, FDCA will be making continuous quality improvement and viability key focal points for the family day care sector in 2020.

 

With demand for quality and flexible early childhood education and care at record levels, family day care’s unique capabilities in supporting the needs of Australian children, families and communities will continue to play a crucial role in the early childhood education and care landscape.

 

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 2020.

 

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 2020 and beyond, as we strive to enhance knowledge, understanding and unity in everything that we do.

 

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