ECEC sector responds to PM announcement of a Federal election on 21 May
The Australian early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector has responded to the Prime Minister’s announcement over the weekend that the next Federal election will be held on 21 May 2022.
Thrive by Five, the Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA) and the Australian Education Union (AEU) were all quick to release statements following the announcement, universally calling for early learning to have a higher priority in the eyes of both Government and voters.
“Since the pandemic began, Australia has gained a new appreciation for the benefits of early learning and care,” ELACCA CEO Elizabeth Death said, with both families and employers being “powerfully reminded” of the vital role the sector plays not only in educating and caring for children, but also in enabling parents and carers to work and therefore support the broader economy.
This election, she continued, falls at a critical time, when Australia’s children need to move from surviving to thriving.
“This means focusing our national efforts on building greater access to affordable, high-quality early learning and care for every young child,” Ms Death said. “In particular, it means bringing children in from the margins, harnessing the benefits of early learning and care to support their wellbeing.”
ELACCA would like to see the next Government change national policy settings and address the flawed Child Care Subsidy system which it says “contains too many cracks,” and to ensure that educators and teachers working in the sector are better supported.
ELACCA’s key recommendations for the incoming government are:
- Provide all children with a base entitlement of at least two days per week of subsidised early learning and care, regardless of their parents’ engagement in work or study
- Ensure access to early learning and care, and all necessary support in those services, for children who need it most, including children experiencing disadvantage and vulnerability, and those with additional needs and disability
- Increase the Child Care Subsidy rate by 10 per cent at each income threshold, bringing the maximum subsidy rate to 95 per cent for low-income families and the minimum rate to 30 per cent
- Develop a rollout plan for a second year of preschool/kindergarten for all Australian children
- Invest in swift implementation of the new National Children’s Education and Care Workforce Strategy.
These sentiments were echoed by Thrive by Five CEO Jay Weatherill who said the high workforce turnover of up to 30 per cent in the sector is a concern, with wages failing to keep up with living costs for the predominately female workforce.
“There’s a high level of frustration from both parents and educators with the current early learning system and the time has come to fix it,” he said. “Over the past year, we’ve seen growing momentum and support from a variety of business groups, civil society groups, women’s advocates, parents and educators for investment in early learning as a key economic reform with the power to support women’s workplace participation and ease the cost of living for families with young children.”
Thrive by Five called on the incoming Government to provide:
- Long-term federal and state partnership to fund 15 hours per week of three year old pre-school;
- Long-term federal and state partnership to fund 15 hours per week of four year old pre-school;
- Progressive increase in the childcare subsidy for first child to 95 per cent, starting with lifting the current subsidy to 90 per cent;
- Increase in the childcare subsidy for second or third child to 95 per cent;
- Make universal early learning system a formal National Cabinet priority;
- Improved workforce planning to fund appropriate pay and conditions for teachers and educators to end the problem of skill shortages, high vacancy rates and high turnover in the sector;
- Phase-in paid paid parental leave paid at the minimum wage for up to 12 months shared between parents/carers starting with an immediate move to 26 weeks of paid leave; and,
- Universal access to maternal and child health care, with additional home visits for families needing extra support.
The AEU will be running a $3.5 million campaign in targeted marginal seats to “ensure the Coalition does not win a fourth term,” with Federal President Correna Haythorpe critical of the Government’s spending record on public education.
“(The Prime Minister) has refused to extend Universal Access to preschool to three-year-olds, despite the overwhelming evidence that shows the benefits two years of high quality early learning would bring to children, to parents and to the whole economy,” Ms Haythorpe said.
“From the earliest years to adults seeking the skills and qualifications they need to get a secure job, (he) has shirked his responsibility to public education students at every turn.”
ELACCA is expected to provide a policy summary to member families in the coming weeks outlining the positions of the major parties.
For more information about the upcoming election please see here.
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