Over the past week we have released two major pieces of work as part of our renewed focus to support the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector through COVID-19:
We have prepared independent analysis of funding for ECEC in our latest paper, Realising the benefits of early childhood education and care: Funding after COVID-19. The paper assesses how to best accelerate economic recovery, while ensuring children’s wellbeing and education, as we begin to move out of COVID-19 and into the future.
Our analysis balances aspiration with pragmatism, to recommend a way forward that is feasible within budget pressures and sector limitations:
Maintain free or low-cost access to ECEC for all children to provide a stable environment and enable services to respond to increases in demand as parents return to work.
Amend the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) to be more responsive and flexible to changing demand patterns, improve access and affordability and prioritise support for vulnerable children. The Federal and State Governments should also work towards universal, teacher-led preschool in the two years before school.
Continue improvements to affordability and include two years of universal preschool. Integrate with community support services for families.
We reached this recommendation by keeping outcomes for children at the core of our analysis. We know from evidence that we need a sector that is prepared with enough high quality teachers and educators, resources and infrastructure to deliver the outcomes we want to see for children. We want to ensure we make the most of the opportunities that ECEC provides to children, families and employers as we move out COVID-19, while building the foundations for a stronger future that will deliver a double dividend to children and Australia.
Our recommendation is grounded in the evidence on what makes a difference for children, and is informed by our rigorous and frequent consultation with people who connect with the many different parts of the ECEC system; including representatives from government, business, philanthropy, peak bodies, academia and the ECEC sector.
We have shared this paper with the National Cabinet, Treasurer, Finance Minister and Federal and State & Territory Education Ministers over the past week to help inform their decisions about future funding arrangements for ECEC.
We have launched a survey of early childhood teachers (ECTs) and educators to make sure their voices are at the forefront of our work to achieve a better system for ECEC after COVID-19. The survey asks what ECTs and educators see as the strengths of the sector, as well as where they would like to have more support or see improvement.
I am delighted that in just one week we have received 1400 responses from ECTs and educators from all across Australia, working in many different types of ECEC settings. It is critically important that we collect insights from the people who directly deliver education and care to children in ECEC while we explore how to achieve improvements for the sector.
I look forward to sharing their views with you when we publish our survey results in the coming weeks.
We have also commenced a targeted survey of parents and families to discover how their ECEC needs are changing, and what they hope to see from services in the future. This will inform our upcoming projects to support our essential early learning sector during COVID-19, along with our survey of teachers and educators and continuous collaboration with different people who experience the sector.
Thank you for your continued interest in our work at this important time of change and opportunity for children, their families and our society.