Proposed outcomes-based AMEP funding model could mean big changes for ECEC
The Australian Migrant English Program (AMEP) is familiar to many in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector for its role in supporting those who are new arrivals to Australia to improve their English language skills and settle more easily into Australian life.
As part of the program AMEP participants are given free childcare for children under school age to support them to participate fully in the program.
The Department of Home Affairs has proposed a number of changes to the way in which AMEP is funded, including some changes that will impact the ECEC sector should the proposal be accepted.
In relation to changes which affect the ECEC sector, the Department has shared the following key points:
- The current payment structure for childcare is based on the hourly rate a student attends AMEP
- This does not align with the daily rates of the mainstream childcare sector
- The Department is seeking feedback on two options to manage high childcare costs.
The two options proposed in relation to managing the costs associated with ECEC are:
Providers tender for a childcare fee and will be allocated with a certain amount of funding to manage childcare placements within their budget allocation. Budget allocation for childcare payments can be conducted on a quarterly or six monthly basis.
Providers tender for a childcare fee and prioritise certain visa cohorts (e.g. humanitarian entrants) in the allocation of childcare places.
Throughout the consultation process in relation to the changes, a number of advocacy groups, including the Australian Education Union (AEU) have shared their views about the changes with the Department.
Having reviewed the proposed outcomes based funding model, the AEU has expressed serious concerns that the proposed model would “fail migrants, fail providers, fail education, and fail educators”.
A discussion paper about the model has been circulated, which the AEU responded to, expressing concern that the changes would “undermine the purpose of the program, and make it less accessible, leaving students with lower quality outcomes and diminished participation.”
The purpose of AMEP, AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe argued, is to provide education that increases the settlement of migrants and their participation in Australian society.
“In order to best meet that goal, investment needs to be provided upfront to protect provider viability, teacher employment and to ensure additional support can be provided to those students who may need it.”