A call to increase the certainty of Commonwealth funding to guarantee access to preschool is welcome recognition of the critical role that Early Childhood Education (ECE) has in providing equity of opportunity for all children to get the best start to their education.
A report by the Chifley Research Centre has called for a new approach to early childhood education in Australia, with governments considering the sector as a key part of the education continuum and providing sustainable funding to ensure that all Australian children have universal access to preschool. Federal Government funding for preschool is currently renewed for only twelve months at a time, with no guarantee of renewal.
The Chifley report also called for increased investment in a skilled, stable workforce that has the opportunity to undertake professional development and achieve appropriate remuneration for their work.
Australian Education Union (AEU) Federal President Correna Haythorpe called on the Federal Government to immediately provide guaranteed ongoing Universal Access funding to preschool for all four year olds and to extend this offering to three year olds nationally.
“Preschool education is crucially important to ensure that Australian children the best start in life in those crucial formative years,” Ms Haythorpe said.
“It is unacceptable that the current annual funding cycles that the preschool sector is subjected to by the Federal Government denies certainty for staff, students and their families.”
“As the Chifley report said, there is a demonstrated need to invest in a skilled, stable preschool workforce,” Ms Haythorpe said. “Public provision of ongoing high quality preschool education must be fully funded by governments to enable preschools to plan and invest in additional teaching time, support for children and professional development for early childhood staff.”
“The Nous Report, which was prepared for the Education Council, also recommends that funding for high quality preschool education be continued beyond the annual National Partnership funding arrangements that are currently in place,” Ms Haythorpe said.
“A recent PWC report demonstrated that any such investment into the preschool sector pays for itself. For every $1 spent on early childhood education, $2 of benefits flow back to the economy,” Ms Haythorpe said.
Ms Haythorpe said that the skills and abilities that children develop in preschool lead to stronger academic performance through school and a greater likelihood of undertaking further education.
“Children who go to preschool are school ready, better at managing emotions and have better attention spans,” Ms Haythorpe said. “Learning issues can be identified and support mechanisms put into place earlier, which benefits all children, because all children learn better when skill levels in the classroom are high – children influence each other.”
“Governments need to understand that funding preschool is not only good for the economy but it is great for our children as it sets them up for life,” Ms Haythorpe said.
“The benefits of a structured early childhood education program for our children are compelling and proven. It’s time for the Federal Government to make this ongoing commitment for our children and families,” Ms Haythorpe said.