The value of early childhood education and care has never been more evident than during COVID-19. While Australians are relying on our ECEC system to continue supporting children to develop and families to work, we’re focusing on how to make it better.
Our choices for managing COVID-19 reveal what we value most for our families, our communities and across our broader society. Governments, employers and community services are experiencing how much our economy and general wellbeing depends on a strong ECEC sector. This presents an opportunity for us to develop new policy, funding and ways to strengthen the system behind the sector, so that all Australians can access high quality education and care for young children now and after COVID-19.
Australia has strong foundations for quality early learning. However, our system was facing challenges before COVID-19, and these challenges have been exacerbated by responses to the pandemic. The system is funded through a complicated subsidy model and delivery arrangements are inconsistent across states and territories. There are a wide variety of services in place to meet the different needs of children and communities all across the country, which creates confusion about what kind of support we need to improve.
The changes that have been introduced to respond to COVID-19 are impacting existing challenges – some are being resolved, some remain, and some new challenges are emerging. This state of change presents an opportunity to introduce longer-term reforms that will deliver a more sustainable, higher quality and better-respected ECEC sector, and improve outcomes for more Australian children.
We are responding to this by using our systems change expertise that we've built up over four years to identify and analyse opportunities for change, and recommend ways to secure a stronger ECEC system after COVID-19.
We are looking at what Australia needs to deliver a sustainable, high-quality and high-impact early childhood education system, and what investment is necessary to reap the double dividend of early learning. We are making sure our activities are guided by the opportunities we want to see for all Australian children. Our priorities include:
- Clarifying the stress points of our system and the policy and funding settings that get in the way of equitable access to high quality ECEC
- Producing scenario modelling that shows what changes are possible or likely as we experience the impacts of COVID-19
- Identifying the key changes possible and necessary right now to improve quality and equity
- Providing a clear direction forward.
To improve early childhood education in Australia we need to understand the many experiences and thoughts of people who encounter, work in and work on the system. We are connecting with people from all areas that connect with early learning to see what changes we need to make to achieve a better system for all children.