I’m Dr Judith Slocombe, and I’m thrilled to have joined ECMS last month in the role of interim CEO.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve visited a number of ECMS kindergartens and childcare centres to meet our teams and see our programs in action. During these visits, I’ve been touched by how passionate our talented educators are about providing high-quality, inclusive and positive early learning experiences for children and families. I’ve seen lovely examples of educators building strong relationships with each child and family and incorporating individual child and family needs and backgrounds into the early learning program.
Relationships with children, families and communities was the focus of our recent staff Conference. The Conference was a fantastic opportunity for our entire team to come together to learn fresh ideas and approaches to building strong relationships from locally and internationally renowned early childhood experts.
As a mother of nine, I know just how important these relationships are for children. I also understand the positive impact quality early learning and care experiences have on children’s lives. My experience as CEO of the Alannah and Madeline Foundation and my work with Children’s Rights International also tells me that when children don’t have a nurturing environment during their formative years, they don’t have the opportunity to thrive in the future.
The vital role early childhood education and care plays in children’s lives was reaffirmed in the State of Early Learning in Australia 2017 report released earlier this week. The report, published by the Early Learning: Everyone Benefits national advocacy group, which ECMS supports, provides a snapshot of quality, participation and investment in early childhood education and care in each Australian state and territory.
The report confirms that children who attend early learning are half as likely to have developmental vulnerabilities in one or more learning domain(s) when they start school as children who don’t attend any form of early childhood education. The report also shows that participation in four-year-old kindergarten has increased from just 12 per cent in 2008 to 91 percent in 2015. This is a direct result of a targeted Universal Access policy funded by federal and state governments.
While this is good news, the report also tells us that only 15 per cent of three-year-olds participate in kindergarten programs, well below the OECD average of 69 per cent. This is a concern given we know that the longer children spend in a quality early learning environment, the better their long-term outcomes. With this in mind, I want to assure you that ECMS will continue to advocate for the rights of all Victorian children and families to access two years of funded kindergarten, with additional support for our most vulnerable families. We’ll do this via our support of the Early Learning: Everyone Benefits campaign and our ongoing conversations with governments. I’ll keep you updated on any progress we make in upcoming editions of our Engage family newsletter.