The years from birth to the age of eight are crucial for children’s social, emotional, and intellectual development. Services currently provided for pre-school early childhood development and care are expensive, ill-defined, and confusing. Funding varies from state to state, services are delivered in a wide range of settings and not all children receive high quality education and care.
According to UNICEF, Australia is at the bottom of world ranking – 34 out of 41 countries – for access to early learning for three year-olds and has among the highest out-of-pocket childcare fees in the world.
The Federal Government acknowledges:
The foundations for excellence in learning are laid early in life. Parents and carers who engage children in high-quality learning experiences from a young age make a significant difference to a child’s educational success at school. (Through Growth to Achievement Report: 16)
Responsibility for early childhood development is shared by Commonwealth and state governments and whilst there is some growth in investment in the sector there is still no guarantee of free 3- and 4-year-old kinder. Only 15% of 3-year-olds are currently enrolled in a preschool program. Some states still charge parents a fee for kinder. Commonwealth funding is neither ongoing nor adequate.
- 26 weeks of paid parental leave, for each parent with encouragement for equal sharing. Single parents to receive 52 weeks.
- Support by healthcare professions to vulnerable families with access to 25 maternal and child health checks plus home visits
- Better integration of early childhood services
- A new EC funding model integrating education and care and preschool.
- Vulnerable children entitled to at least three free or low-cost days of high-quality early childhood education and care a week.
- Two years of free preschool (20 hours/week) in the years before school
- A smooth transition from early learning to compulsory school education
- Nationally consistent registration and standards for all early childhood teachers
- A strategy for the early childhood education and care workforce that includes proper remuneration and raises qualifications as soon as possible to 4-year degree.
- A needs-based strategy for infrastructure and resources for early childhood learning centres
- A focus on making early childhood services accessible.
Our plan is informed by the Starting Better Report by the Centre for Policy Development. According to the CPD, the benefits of excellent early childhood education and care are enormous:
- Increased access to the workforce for mothers
- An increased number of more secure, higher-paying jobs in the growing early childhood education sector.
- Higher educational attainment for children, and greater workforce participation when they grow up.
- Happier, healthier and more prosperous lives for children
- Higher tax revenues and lower health, crisis and policing costs for governments
It’s a no brainer!