Work and Play Report 2023

Understanding Families experiences and perceptions of Early Childhood Education and Care.

Every day millions of Australian families send their children to an early childhood education and care (ECEC) service. Behind the colourful drawings and play based activities is a complex system that is working hard to support the learning and developmental outcomes of children, enable parents to work, and address entrenched disadvantage in our communities. Families play such an important role in the ECEC system. They, along with children, are the key beneficiaries and it’s critical their needs and experiences are heard. Two years ago, the Front Project sought to elevate the voice of families. We wanted to understand more about how they experience ECEC. We asked: 

  1. What do families think about ECEC services and what do they value? 
  2. What do they think about cost and access? 
  3. Is the system meeting their needs and what do they think needs to change? 

The answers to these questions formed the basis to the Front Project’s 2021 Report Work and play: Understanding how Australian families experience Early Childhood Education and Care (2021 Work and Play study). The answers to these questions are more important than ever. That’s why we have once again commissioned Heartward Strategic, an independent social research consultancy, to help us understand how families are experiencing and perceiving ECEC in 2023. The pandemic reinforced to families the critical role ECEC has in enabling the learning and development of their children and supporting them to work. It is against this backdrop that the government made a commitment to work towards a universal, high-quality, accessible, affordable and equitable ECEC system for all children and families in Australia. 

With increasing attention on ECEC in Australia and several important reforms taking place, one thing must remain steadfast: the needs of the system’s beneficiaries, families and children, are at the core of the future system. This report provides valuable insights in how families think, feel and make decisions around ECEC and how we can ensure the system better meets their needs. Not only will families benefit from having their voices heard, but importantly so will their children, which is critical for the future of early learning and care in Australia.