ECA says Budget 2021 “A step in the right direction”, calls for more to be done
Early Childhood Australia (ECA) has acknowledged that commitments made in the Budget 2021/22 lay the foundations for further improvement in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector but that “more work needs to be done urgently.”
ECA CEO Samantha Page welcomed the $2 billion in ongoing funding for preschools through a four‑year Strategic Reform Agreement of the Universal Access National Partnership noting that longer term funding for preschool providers ensures every child will receive at least 15 hours a week of early learning in the year before school.
However, Ms Page noted that “ultimately we want this to be extended to younger children, in line with international best practice.”
That being said, Ms Page raised concerns about details included within the Government’s proposal to develop a preschools outcomes measure as part of a broader initiative to improve data collection and build a new performance framework.
“ECA supports the enhancement of data collection and improved outcomes for vulnerable and disadvantaged children. We are however concerned about measuring children’s readiness for school. ECA and many early childhood education experts have concerns about testing young children and urge the government to carefully consider their approach.”
“A child’s capacity to regulate their emotions, collaborate with peers and feel confident about their learning is much more important than simplistic measures of number or letter recognition,” she added.
ECA also welcomed the investment of $17.9 million to create a new National Early Childhood Program for Children with Disability or Developmental Concerns as well as $100.8 million in mental health funding to support parents and early intervention, and establish child mental health and wellbeing hubs with the states and territories.
However, there was a sense of disappointment expressed that significant investment in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Early Years Strategy was not properly addressed, with the ECA calling for a long-term, secure approach to funding early years education and parenting support programs as cited by SNAICC and other organisations in recent weeks.