ECA reviews Productivity Commission data, finding that ‘children are still missing out’
Early Childhood Australia (ECA) has reviewed the recent Productivity Commission Report on Government Services (RoGS), released 4 February, finding that “too many Australian children are missing out on early learning, especially in the crucial year before school”.
Disturbingly, ECA noted, those missing out on preschool are the ones who stand to benefit most from attending. Children from low socioeconomic backgrounds, children from non-English speaking backgrounds and children with a disability were all under-represented in the RoGS report, with low enrolment numbers across the country.
While concerted efforts had been made by Governments across Australia to increase enrolments in preschool by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, Indigenous children “are less likely to attend preschool regularly than their non-Indigenous peers”, ECA said, citing 2018 ABS statistics.
ECA CEO Samantha Page said it was disappointing that federal spending on preschool fell last year, at a time where states and territories continue to increase their investment in preschool.
“It will take a national effort and national leadership to ensure that our most vulnerable children are included in early learning services,” she added.
The RoGS data also showed a decline in federal spending on non-preschool early learning has been reversed, ECA said, principally through spending on the Child Care Subsidy (CCS). While welcoming the drop in out-of-pocket costs for many families since the introduction of the CCS, the advocacy body said that costs “remain a significant concern for some families, particularly when fees rise above the CCS cap”.
Ms Page said a strong conclusion from the RoGS was the “incomplete state of the data on early learning in Australia”.
“We need much better data to understand the impact of early learning on children, to identify which children are missing out and to direct public spending on early learning to the right areas,” she added.
‘We still don’t know how often a child attends preschool programs or how many hours of a teacher-led program they receive across service types, for example.”
ECA said they look forward to the outcome of current discussions between federal, state and territory governments on generating better data to guide early learning investment.