2023 in review – The ten most impactful ECEC news stories of the year
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.
Although there were a substantial number of important developments across the sector in 2023 the year will most definitely be remembered as the year when, after years of lobbying by advocates and associations, the matter of low educator wages was finally addressed.
Two big stories stand out on this matter. Firstly, the substantial increase in Modern Award wages, the highest in at least 10 years, and secondly, the commencement of wage negotiations between employee and employer representatives.
Financial recognition for educators is finally part of the mainstream conversation and will likely remain so into the new year as results of the wage negotiations are released.
We hope you enjoy reviewing our ten most impactful news stories of 2023.
1. FWC confirms ECEC Modern Award wages to increase by 5.75% in July 2023
Although expectations for a substantial Modern Award increase this year were quite high given persistent high inflation, the 5.75 per cent increase passed down by the Fair Work Commission (FWC) was still higher than expected and of course very well received by all professionals in the ECEC sector.
2. Fair Work Commission green lights historic wage negotiation process to kick off
In September 2023 the FWC approved the making of a supported bargaining authorisation that will allow key stakeholders to start negotiations that could lead to an agreement to materially increase wages for educators. As of writing this piece the process is well advanced with some form of announcement expected in the New Year.
3. Staff waivers reach record highs as workforce shortage persists
The percentage of long day care (LDC) services with at least one staff waiver in place as at the end of September 2023 increased to 17.4 per cent, just under one in five, with some states like Western Australia recording a massive 26.3 per cent and Queensland 24.10 per cent signaling strongly that the workforce crisis pervading the ECEC sector is very much still intact.
4. CCS changes implemented in July 2023 improve affordability by 13.2%
A raft of changes to the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) were implemented in July, designed to improve affordability for families and had a significant impact on out of pocket expenses with the ABS reporting a 13.2 per cent fall in costs in the three months to September. In all likelihood the actual fall would have been higher for families as the ABS includes fee increases passed in the period.
5. 2019 NQF review recommendations finally come into effect with NQF changes
Over the course of 2023 a whole raft of changes to the NQF came into effect inspired by findings presented as part of the 2019 NQF Review with a focus on improving safety and wellbeing of children, strengthening regulatory oversight in the family day care sector and improving the provision of NQF related information for families.
6. Updates to EYLF and MTOP approved by Education Ministers and rolled out in 2023
As well as important changes to the National Quality Framework (NQF), 2023 also saw Version 2 of the nationally approved learning frameworks -the EYLF and MTOP – approved for use and rolled out. Changes include a stronger focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inclusion, an expanded definition of sustainability, and a focus on collaborative leadership.
7. First ever draft vision for ECEC released by National Cabinet
A long term vision for early childhood education and care in Australia, commissioned by the National Cabinet, was released by the Department of Education and for the first time sees all aspects of the ECEC eco-system pulled together in a coherent and comprehensive road map including principles, outcomes, scope, levers and most importantly enablers.
8. Productivity Commission and ACCC inquiry draft reports released
Important milestones were achieved in the ongoing inquiries into different aspects of the ECEC sector by the Productivity Commission (here) and the ACCC (here) with draft reports from both bodies released this year. The Federal Government commissioned reports are seen as important inputs to a broader objective of resetting the ECEC sector.
9. AFP investigation sees educator charged with 1,623 offenses against children
News of the charging of a 45 year old male from the Gold Coast for over 1,500 individual abuse charges against 91 children sent shock waves across the ECEC sector and beyond. Operation Tenterfield, as the AFP operation was dubbed, confirmed the individual concerned worked across centres in Queensland, Sydney and overseas in the fifteen years before his conviction.
10. Goodstart, G8 and Busy Bees all welcome new CEOs in 2023
2023 saw senior leader changes across three of the sector’s largest providers with Dr Ros Baxter commencing at Goodstart Early Learning, Pejman Okhovat assuming control of G8 Education and Phil McKenzie most recently starting as the new CEO of Busy Bees Early Learning Australia.
On behalf of the whole Sector Publishing team, best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season and we look forward to reconnecting with you all in 2024.
Staffing waivers outstanding show welcome pull back: latest ACECQA Snapshot
by Jason Roberts
Frustrated by tedious and unproductive meetings? These 2 proven strategies can help teams work smarter
by Freya Lucas
Using SQUADS for Collaborative Leadership and Teamwork
by Freya Lucas