ACT releases much anticipated Early Childhood Strategy – “Set up for Success”

by Jason Roberts

September 01, 2020

The ACT Government has released its early childhood strategy, a key component of the Territory’s Future of Education strategy and an initiative driven by Yvette Berry, Minister for Education and Early Childhood Development that has been at least two years in the making

 

Set up for Success: An Early Childhood Strategy for the ACT is anchored in the Early Years Learning Framework and reflects multiple consultations with the ACT community and the early childhood education and care sector. 

 

It has been designed to build on and guide the delivery of high-quality early childhood education and care (ECEC), and support workforce participation for families, particularly for women with an overarching goal, in line with the Future of Education Strategy, to achieve an education system that sets all children up for success and the opportunity for a fair and decent life.

 

Commenting in the Foreword of the document Ms Berry said “This really is an exciting time for our community as the next generation of leaders are in their early years of learning. This is the opportunity to make a real impact on their lives through high quality and accessible early childhood education and care that is flexible, nurturing, collaborative and targeted to individual needs. This strategy provides a clear and evidence-based roadmap to get us there.”

 

Strategy roadmap informed by starting question “Where do we want to be?”

A key aspect of the shape of the strategy road map is the question posed – “Where do we want to be?” with the strategy structured around a vision of the future where:

 

  • Services meet and exceed standards, put children’s outcomes over profits, and are designed to include children experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage. 
  • The workforce is valued for their transformative contributions to children’s lives and supported in their professionalism. 
  • Children and families are supported on their learning journeys, including in transitions from one stage into another. 
  • The whole community understands and prioritises the importance of early years learning and development.

 

A central policy of the strategy is the transition to universal access to preschool for three-year-old children and a key outcome of its implementation is a future in which ECEC will be considered a force for social good, by policy and law makers, by the sector, and by the community.

 

A 10 year strategy with four foundations to be delivered in three phases

The Strategy is built around four key foundations for implementation that provide a focus for the various initiatives to be allocated and ensures that the broader objectives of the strategy are met. In addition, the foundations and principles align with those contained within the ACT’s larger Future of Education Strategy. 

 

The foundations are:

 

  1. A fair start for every child
  2. Valuing educators, values children
  3. Every child has a story
  4. Working together for children

 

Implementation will be split into three phases spanning years one to two, three to five and five to ten respectively. It is expected that the latter two stages will be refined as implementation is affected. 

 

First phase has 20 initiatives spaced across four foundations 

The first phase of the strategy contains a range of 20 different initiatives grouped across the four foundations of the strategy. 

 

Of particular note is a broad reaching commitment to improving access to ECEC via targeted preschool access for up to 500 three year olds and the creation of 100 three-year-old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children places at Koori Preschool in 2020/2021, as well as commencing a scoping exercise for universal access to ECEC for three year olds. 

 

The first phase also importantly contains a commitment to include early childhood education in ACT law by amending the Education Act 2004 to recognise that ECEC has a central role in the realisation of the rights of the child and therefore must be universally available on an equity basis.

 

In addition, the plan includes scope to develop a structured capacity planning and land allocation approach to better manage long term development of ECEC service provision to ensure under and over supply does not undermine service viability or quality.

 

From an educator perspective, the Phase 1 strategy will focus on immediate challenges such as developing a workforce strategy, improving coaching, mentoring and training and improving pathways into the profession. 

 

The commitments in the workforce strategy area is not just limited to the ACT but also an intent to to “work with the Education Council to establish a new national workforce strategy to attract, develop, support and retain a high-quality workforce, initially for voluntary adoption by providers” signalling a broader intent to collaborate via the Education Council to create an all state and territory strategy. 

 

The outside school hours care (OSHC) sector also receives special mention with OSHC trials planned for preschool children in 2020, a follow on from the ACT Government’s election promise to conduct a trial of OSHC for four-year-old preschool children at four ACT public schools, delivered in the preschool environment and to work in partnership with the sector to leverage the value of OSHC and government lease arrangements to deliver on strategic elements of the strategy.

 

Over the longer term broader structural goals are achieved through a range of initiatives

Across the second and third phases the strategies broader initiatives are realised through a range of initiatives that include but are not limited to the following:

 

Second phase:

 

  • Explore the introduction of formative assessments to assist with identifying the needs of individual and groups of children
  • Explore flexible options for access to extended hours early childhood education and care
  • Investigate amending the ACT teacher professional regulatory framework to include qualified early childhood teachers
  • Establish a professional learning and resource portal for educators
  • Investigate enrolment from birth
  • Increase capacity for differentiated practice in early childhood education and care
  • Finalise structured capacity planning framework for ECEC

 

Third phase:

 

  • Continue the roll-out of universal preschool for three-year-olds
  • Develop flexible options for accessing extended hours to early childhood education
  • Explore options for professionalising and increasing the pay and conditions for the ECEC workforce
  • Implement structured capacity planning framework for ECEC

 

To read the Set up for Success: An Early Childhood Strategy for the ACT please click here

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