Sector responds favourably to record week of early learning announcements from NSW
A number of early childhood education and care (ECEC) peak bodies have shared their responses to a record week of announcements by the New South Wales Government ahead of its Budget, which is due to be released on Tuesday.
Responses from core sector representatives including the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA), the Community Child Care Association (CCC), the Early Learning Association Australia (ELAA), the Australian Education Union (AEU), Early Childhood Australia (ECA) and the Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA) all welcomed the commitment from the large Eastern states to early learning.
The peak bodies have also applauded the joint commitment from Victoria, traditionally a big supporter of early learning growth and change, and NSW when it comes to reform in the sector.
Ground breaking reform
ELACCA CEO Elizabeth Death described the reforms as “ground breaking” noting that a universal entitlement to 30 hours of play based learning in the year before school will “change lives,” and be good for children, families and the economy.
Addressing concerns of some providers about how the programs will play out “on the ground” Ms Death said a “mixed market approach” is key, meaning that reforms can be rolled out in years rather than decades, allowing for families to choose between government-run and privately-run early learning providers, who may be offering different days and hours of operation.
AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said it was pleasing to see both Governments working together.
“We welcome the commitments to free and universal access to preschool with extended hours in both states. We particularly welcome the commitment to co-locate these at public primary schools,” she added.
ELAA CEO David Worland said the organisation is in complete agreement with the Andrew’s Government who described the joint Victoria and NSW reforms as “the greatest transformation of early education in a generation.”
Workforce reforms must come alongside ambition
A number of the peak bodies highlighted the urgent need for Governments at all levels to address the current shortage of early childhood teachers and educators, noting that a failure to do so would hinder the capacity of the reforms to proceed smoothly.
Speaking on behalf of ELACCA Ms Death said that with a concerted effort and additional funding workforce numbers could be lifted as the reforms roll out, while CCC’s Executive Director Julie Price described the workforce as being under stress.
“We are calling on the New South Wales and Victorian governments to develop a joint workforce strategy for pre-Kindergarten and pre-Prep that seamlessly aligns with the National Early Childhood Workforce Strategy: Shaping our Future,” Ms Death said.
“We will need to see this urgently implemented to build the capacity our sector will need over the next ten years.”
These concerns were echoed by the AEU with Ms Haythorpe saying the implementation of a strong and effective workforce strategy for the sector that ensures secure employment for all teachers and educators was fundamental to underpin the long term viability of the ECEC sector in Australia.
ACA President Paul Mondo agreed, noting that ACA’s shared priority is now to address the critical shortage of educators that risks undermining the significant investment by Federal and State Governments.
“We need our services to remain open and to comfortably cope with the anticipated increased demand that these policies are likely to create,” he said.
Equity a core component of success – when will other states follow?
The Victorian and NSW stance on prioritising early learning is one which many peaks are keen to see replicated across the country, praising the two Premiers for ensuring that all children, regardless of the economic circumstances of their caregivers, will be able to access high quality, teacher-led early learning.
“Fees pose a barrier to some children attending, so it is great to see that the importance of early childhood education is being prioritised by ensuring children can attend at no cost,” ELAA CEO David Worland said.
ELACCA called on the newly formed Federal Government to lead a national process of preschool reform, inspired by the measures taken by NSW and Victoria.
‘We’re really pleased for families in New South Wales and Victoria, but we don’t want to see children and families in the other states and territories left behind,’ Ms Death said.
‘This should be the start of a national push to offer 30 hours of free early learning to all children in Australia in the two years before they start formal school. That is a worthy legacy for political leaders across Australia.”
ECA CEO Samantha Page echoed this perspective saying the investment by both states “is critical to solving the problem of early education “deserts” and extending the benefits to more families affected by the shortage.”
For more information about the joint reforms proposed by NSW and Victoria please see here.
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