The ten biggest ECEC news stories of 2022 – The year in review
The Sector > Policy > Examples > The ten biggest ECEC news stories of 2022 – The year in review

The ten biggest ECEC news stories of 2022 – The year in review

by Jason Roberts

December 19, 2022

As we approach the end of the year, it has become a tradition at The Sector to conduct a review of the biggest early childhood education and care (ECEC) news stories of the preceding twelve months. 


2022 will be remembered from an operational perspective for the acute challenges that a shortfall in quality teachers and educators has caused, impacting educators, services and providers across the country. 


Although the crisis dominated day to day concerns there has been a wide range of other impactful developments which have affected the ECEC sector in 2022 and are likely to reverberate into 2023. 


Major developments such as the Australian Labor Party securing power at a Federal level, the ‘once in a generation transformation of the Victoria and New South Wales education systems in terms of the year before school, and changes to the Fair Work Commission’s mandate are terrific examples of more positive headwinds, and, when viewed alongside a plethora of senior leadership changes and a pick up in corporate activity, mark 2022 as a year to be remembered. 


Here are the ten biggest and most popular news stories of 2022:


1. The Australian Labor Party win general election 2022 with multiple ECEC pledges 


After being out of power at the Federal level since 2013 Anthony Albenese’s Australian Labor Party won the General Election with a mix of policy pledges that included broad commitments to improving ECEC accessibility, affordability and transparency. 


Once in power the Government moved quickly to appoint Dr Anne Aly as the Minister for Early Childhood Education in Albanese’s new ministry, the first female to hold a dedicated ECEC position since Kate Ellis in 2013,and to pass the Cheaper Child Care Bill to deliver on its pre-election pledges. 


2. ECEC sector to finally gets its own Commonwealth Early Years Strategy  


The Federal Government announced Australia’s first Commonwealth Early Years Strategy following the lead of multiple states and territories and other nations such as New Zealand who have released or plan to release comprehensive early years strategy initiatives. 


The new document aims to create a new integrated, holistic, whole-of-government approach to ensure children aged five years and below have the best start at life in their critical early years of development and is expected to be completed by 2024. 


3. New South Wales and Victoria launch transformational new ECEC plans


In coordinated releases the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria announced that they will add an extra year of play-based learning to the education system in their respective states that will be known as pre-Prep in Victoria and pre-Kindergarten in NSW.


Under the programs all four year olds will be able to access 30 hours a week of play-based learning, with Victoria already well advanced in the policy application with extensions applied to include three year olds in the Universal Access plans. 


4. Educator, teacher and support office shortages intensify across the sector


The ECEC sector was once again flagged by the Australian Government’s National Skills Commission as a sector in short supply nationally with anticipated strong future demand expected. 


The shortages, and how they are impacting the ECEC sector, were captured in the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority’s (ACECQA) NQF Snapshot data which showed staffing waivers in place at the end of September 2022 jumping to a record of 9.3 per cent of all services in Australia and 27.8 per cent of all long day cares in Queensland.


5. Some of Australia’s largest ECEC providers see leadership transitions at the very top


Goodstart Early Learning and G8 Education, the largest not for profit and for profit providers of early learning services in Australia respectively both announced a change in their respective Chief Executive Officers in the year, as did Only About Children, Big Fat Smile and Communities@Work.


Goodstart’s Julia Davision, who had been in the role for 11 years, stepped down to be replaced by Dr Ros Baxter and G8’s Gary Carroll, who had been in the role for four years, stepped down to be replaced by Pejman Okhovat. Only About Children also welcomed back Anna Learmonth, Big Fat Smile welcomed Kim Bertino and Communities@Work welcomed Michelle Colefax


6. Changes to Fair Work Commission mandate favours ECEC pay increase claims


In a very significant piece of new legislation the Federal Government’s Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill included orders to have the Fair Work Commission’s objects adjusted to ensure they consider all equal remuneration and work value cases free of assumptions based on gender where there has been historical gender-based undervaluation of the work under consideration.


These adjustments will have an outsized impact on highly feminised sectors such as ECEC and are likely to lead to decisions, both at the Modern Award and pay equalisation case level, that are more likely to favour higher wage determinations.


7. Updated Assessment and Rating process changes see notice periods shortened


Confirmation came through late in 2022 that assessment and rating (A&R) processes will change in 2023 including materially shortened notice periods and an enhanced focus on Quality Improvement Plans (QIP) as part of continuous quality improvement rather than as a point-in-time preparation.


Services will now receive just one to five days notice for most A&R visits with Department signaling that approved providers should ensure an up-to-date QIP (or Self Assessment Working Document in NSW) is uploaded to the National Quality Agenda IT System portal or via any other jurisdiction specific submission process regularly.


8. Significant funding, initiatives and inclusion boosts for First Nations children


2022 has seen a marked increase in overall funding levels being channeled to First Nations communities with the express intention of improving ECEC service provision and participation rates. 


The Australian Government announced it will invest $334 million in the future of First Nations children, with the delivery of more than 550 early years and education activities to 100,000 children and students and an influential senate committee recommended the CCS activity test be removed for first nations children


9. Enquiry into VET in Australia signals recognition that status quo needs changing 


As workforce challenges across Australia have grown in 2022, so has the degree of focus on vocational education and training (VET) as an essential tool in delivering new workers into the system, with a growing majority recognising that the current system is not configured to successfully achieve these objectives. 


With Commonwealth and State and Territory governments offering candidates access to free training via TAFE it will come as no surprise that the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training has launched an inquiry into the perceptions and status of vocational education and training (VET) in Australia which in time will mark a watershed moment, and with some luck result in a more effective ECEC training environment. 


10. ECEC corporate activity bounces back after COVID-19 induced hiatus


After a relatively quiet period with regards to ECEC corporate activity through 2020 and 2021 things picked up in 2022 with a number of large providers changing ownership (Affinity and Only About Children), a major restructuring and significant disposal as well as, towards the end of the year, a series of takeover proposals directed at an ASX listed provider


As we enter 2023 it is likely that interest in the ECEC sector from a corporate perspective will persist as the pace of interest rate rises moderates, additional funding finds its way into the sector and the strong demand for early education and care services experienced in 2022 continues. 


On behalf of the whole Sector Publishing team, we thank you for your ongoing support and wish you a safe and happy holiday season. 


We look forward to reconnecting with you all in 2023.

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