The Morrison government’s failure to commit to funding for preschool beyond next year fails to provide certainty for families and the preschool sector.
This lack of ongoing funding flies in the face of the findings of the government’s own review, which recommended funding should be guaranteed for at least five years, with government transitioning to a National Agreement from 2026 onwards.
“Early childhood education is not a quick fix to get parents back to work; it is about giving Australian children the best start in life in those crucial formative years," says AEU Federal president Correna Haythorpe.
"It’s time to end the hand-to-mouth annual funding cycles that the Coalition government has subjected the preschool sector to since 2013. Annual drip-feeding of funding does not allow pre-schools to plan for the future nor to retain and attract staff on an ongoing basis.”
There is also no mention in the budget of extending preschool to three-year olds. Australia is almost alone among advanced economies in not providing this universally.
While there is some assistance for Victorian providers to remain viable during the COVID recovery, this is clearly not enough.
“Government needs to take responsibility and provide preschool for all children. It sets them up for life. Children who go to preschool are school ready, better at managing emotions and have better attention spans. Learning issues can be identified and support mechanisms put in to place earlier, which benefits all children, because all children learn better when the average skill levels in the classroom are high – children influence each other,” says Ms Haythorpe.
A recent Price Waterhouse Coopers report demonstrated that preschool pays for itself. For every $1 spent on early childhood education, $2 worth of benefits flow back into the economy. It is also the biggest policy lever for increasing female participation in the workforce, creating a huge boost to productivity.
This budget failure means Australia is falling behind the rest of the world where two years of preschool is fast becoming the gold standard. Australia remains just one of eleven OECD nations that fail to provide early education to three and four-year-olds.
MEDIA CONTACT: SARAH JONES, 0423 162 310