Daily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by The Conversation Contributor

For too long, early years education policy has focused on the money, pigeonholed into a debate about “child care” and “mums getting back to work”, rather than a long-term investment in children’s development.

Labor’s latest early childhood policy, which includes, among others things, boosting the Child Care Rebate cap to A$10,000, tries to marry both sides of the debate.

It focuses on the need for high-quality, affordable early education and care to support children’s development and to allow families to engage in the workforce.

Under this policy, current payments and rebates remain in place, but will be more generous, in the hope of making child care more affordable for families.

A new direction

The most exciting and different thing about Labor’s policy was the positive shift in direction signalled by the policy’s name – “Investing in Early Education and Care” – and the focus on “making quality early education and care more affordable”.

With this policy, Labor has put quality and the benefits of early education front and centre.

This recognises that:

This emphasis on quality and education is well supported by the evidence, and directly responds to findings that the most difficult National Quality Standard (NQS) for services to meet was “education program and practice”.

Emphasis on quality

Labor’s policy includes a A$150 million “Educator Professional Development Program” to be designed in consultation with early childhood development experts, educators and the sector, to build educator capacity and support implementation of best-practice early learning programs.

This has the potential to reduce the stark variation in quality among services.

Two key factors influencing quality are:

  • location – poorer areas have fewer services meeting or exceeding the NQS – and

  • service type – private providers of long day care and family daycare providers tend to score lower in quality assessments.

Family day care has come in for extra attention in Labor’s policy given that almost half of family day care services assessed do not meet the NQS.

Being able to attract and retain skilled teachers is central to providing high-quality service, yet it is also the greatest challenge for providers.

Labor has said it will urgently develop an Early Years Workforce Strategy, in consultation with experts, to support increased professionalisation and esteem. It will also support higher wages through the Fair Work Commission.

Labor’s policy maintains direct funding for services that will not be viable under the mainstream funding models. These services, mainly focused on Indigenous children, are vital for improving outcomes but need to be supported to meet the NQS.

Policy does not sufficiently address the quality of services

Labor’s policy unfortunately does nothing to address the slow pace of NQS assessments.

A quarter of services are yet to be assessed. At current rates, it will be around two more years before all services are assessed.

Only a fraction of services have been rated more than once in the four years since this process began.

The pace and frequency of quality assessments should increase – while maintaining rigour in the process.

Further reform is mooted, and needed

Early years policy in Australia can and should go much further.

Under Labor’s policy, the current system will remain in place while consulting with experts and the sector on the next stage of reform.

Disappointingly, Labor’s policy is silent on the National Partnership Agreement on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education. This is the agreement between the Commonwealth and states and territories that provides for universal access to preschool in the year before school.

The National Partnership Agreement aims to ensure all four-year-olds receive the recommended 15 hours per week of quality early education.

Short-term agreements (like the recent 2016-17 extension), rather than permanent commitment and sustained funding, create significant challenges for preschool providers and state and territory governments.

Despite its great rhetoric about the importance of early education for all children, Labor’s policy fails to commit to ongoing funding for the National Partnership Agreement.

Neither party addresses this issue.

Labor’s policy is a good start, and the focus on quality and early education is welcome. However, further reform is needed to ensure all children have access to high-quality early learning and receive the best start in life.

Authors: The Conversation Contributor

Read more http://theconversation.com/high-quality-affordable-education-at-the-heart-of-labors-new-early-years-policy-60535

Writers Wanted

An unexpected consequence of climate change: heatwaves kill plant pests and save our favourite giant trees


Burnt ancient nutshells reveal the story of climate change at Kakadu — now drier than ever before


My favourite detective: Jules Maigret, the Paris detective with a pipe but no pretense


The Conversation


Ray Hadley's interview with Scott Morrison

RAY HADLEY: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: G’day Ray.   HADLEY: I was just referring to this story from the Courier Mail, which you’ve probably caught up with today about t...

Ray Hadley & Scott Morrison - avatar Ray Hadley & Scott Morrison

Prime Minister's Remarks to Joint Party Room

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is great to be back in the party room, the joint party room. It’s great to have everybody back here. It’s great to officially welcome Garth who joins us. Welcome, Garth...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM: Scott Morrison, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. How are you?    FORDHAM: Good. How many days have you got to go?   PRIME MINISTER: I've got another we...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Tips to find the best plastic manufacturing supplier for your needs

Plastics are very much an important part of all of our lives, but they’re particularly valuable to a wide variety of industries that rely on their production for their operations. The industries, ...

News Co - avatar News Co

7 foolproof tips for bidding successfully at a property auction

Auctions can be beneficial for prospective buyers, as they are transparent and fair. If you reach the limit you are willing to pay, you can simply walk away. Another benefit of an auction is tha...

Dominique Grubisa - avatar Dominique Grubisa

Getting Ready to Code? These Popular and Easy Programming Languages Can Get You Started

According to HOLP (History Encyclopedia of Programing Languages), there are more than 8,000 programming languages, some dating as far back as the 18th century. Although there might be as many pr...

News Co - avatar News Co

News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion