ECEC sector responds to latest ROGS saying greater support is needed

ECEC sector responds to latest ROGS saying greater support is needed

by Freya Lucas

February 04, 2022

Facets of the early childhood education and care sector, including the Australian Education Union (AEU) and Early Childhood Australia (ECA) have responded to the recently released Report on Government Services (ROGS) 2021 series, describing it as “a timely reminder that Australia needs a bigger vision that prioritises children and the early childhood education and care sector (ECEC).”

 

The continued gains in participation of children in CCS approved services overall, high levels of enrolment in a preschool program for at least 15 hours per week for all children (96.6 per cent) and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (96.4 per cent) are promising, particularly when considering the challenges faced throughout the pandemic, an ECA representative said, noting that while government spending on ECEC is increasing, “we know that more can be done to bring Australia into line with international spending on ECEC.”

 

“Modest increases in funding can only deliver modest progress of children’s outcomes” is ECA’s position, with CEO Samantha Page noting there are still gaps that need to be addressed.

 

“‘The data tells us that there is more work to do to ensure greater access to early childhood education and care for children from low socioeconomic areas, children from non-English speaking backgrounds and children with a disability – whose participation is lagging when compared to their representation in our communities,” Ms Page said.

 

She called for the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) system to be simplified, saying it remains complicated and “is largely ambivalent to delivering benefits to children, instead prioritising parent eligibility to service and provider compliance.”

 

Small changes to the way in which the CCS is administered, and bringing in a focus on children’s eligibility to high-quality, play-based ECEC as a core deliverable rather than parent eligibility through their work-like activity would effectively re-orient the system to be child-facing while balancing the imperative of workforce participation for families, Ms Page suggests. 

 

“Simplifying the system would also allow for greater predictability out of pocket expenses, which currently impact households’ income levels inconsistently,” she added, stressing that ECA remains concerned about the impacts of COVID-19 on both children and the ECEC workforce.

 

“We keenly anticipate the release of the 2021 Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) data and the National Early Childhood Education and Care Workforce Census, which will help to shed light on the impact of the pandemic on children’s development and access to early childhood education and care along with the impacts on the workforce,” Ms Page added. 

 

Speaking on behalf of the AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe was more critical of the report findings, saying “from preschool to TAFE, Australian children are at risk of being left behind by the Government,” noting that the Federal investment in four-year-old preschool has declined in real terms.

 

“Preschool funding has declined by $77.6 million (14.9 per cent) in real terms since the Coalition took government in 2013, while the number of children attending preschool has remained stable at 268,000 since 2016,” she said, emphasising that the pending federal election is “an opportunity to elect a government committed to ensuring every student can enjoy the benefits of a fairly and adequately resourced public education system.” 

 

To read a review of the key findings of the most recent ROGS report please see here. 

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