An independent review, commissioned and endorsed by every State and Territory, has called on Australian Governments to embark on significant reform of Australia’s early childhood education system.
The “Lifting Our Game” Report highlights the Australian and international evidence for the positive impacts of high-quality early childhood education for all children, but particularly for children experiencing disadvantage.
“It is time to embed the earlier reforms and begin further reforms to achieve better outcomes for Australia’s children,” said the Report’s authors Susan Pascoe AM and Professor Deborah Brennan.
Despite the identified need for significant reforms, the Report highlights the failure of the Federal Government’s reform efforts to prioritise outcomes for children, stating that “the Commonwealth has articulated no objectives or targets with respect to outcomes for children whose care they are subsidising”. Despite these concerns, the Government’s Child Care Package received the broad support of sector and advocacy organisations at the time they were debated and legislated.
The Report makes a number of key recommendations for policy makers, including ensuring permanent and ongoing funding for 4-year-old preschool, and to start developing approaches for 3-year-old preschool – with a focus on children experiencing disadvantage.
The National Partnership Agreement for children to access early childhood education in the year before school has been subject to continual last-minute renewals and uncertainty under the Abbott and Turnbull Governments. The current agreement, which has yet to be finalised, only provides for funding until the end of 2018.
The Report also calls for a greater focus on supporting the early childhood education workforce, noting that the quality of interactions between educators and children was the greatest factor in children’s success.
The Early Years Workforce Strategy expired in 2016, and with the ending of the Long Day Care Professional Development Fund in 2017 there is currently no national strategy or funding to support early childhood education workforce development.
Ensuring quality within services was also a priority, with the Report recommending that Governments consider penalising services that repeatedly fail to meet the National Quality Standard. The Report notes that over 30% of services who were re-rated failed to improve their rating from Working Towards to Meeting or Exceeding.
The Report was commissioned as part of the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools through Early Childhood Interventions and is endorsed and supported by every State and Territory.
In a statement, the Victorian Minister for Early Childhood Education Jenny Mikakos said: “This report confirms what we’ve known for a long time – that investing in the early years is the greatest public return on education investment we can make.” Ms Mikakos also called on the Federal Government to commit to long-term funding for the National Partnership Agreement.