Welcome to the September edition of ECMS Engage.
It is encouraging to hear the discussion about access to early education gathering more momentum in Australia. Unfortunately though, the wheels of change are turning too slowly for Australia’s children.
Today, most four-year-old Australian children are accessing 15 hours a week of free or subsidised kindergarten in the year before school. Despite this, a quarter of Australian children are starting school developmentally vulnerable. It is this sort of issue that has provided the impetus for other countries to act. Earlier this month the Irish Government announced it will offer free or subsidised kindergarten to all three year olds. Ireland’s decision to join fellow OECD countries such as France, the UK and more recently New Zealand, only exacerbates the need for Australia to also extend universal access to kindergarten to three year olds.
At present, approximately 66 per cent of Australian three year old children are attending early education. This is concerning. As we know that the longer children spend at kindergarten, the better their outcomes. We also know that two years of kindergarten has the greatest impact on vulnerable children. As these children often need more than one year of kindergarten to catch up to their peers.
In the coming weeks we will see the Federal Government’s proposed childcare and early learning reforms debated by the Senate. Again the debate will focus on access to early education. We urge the Government to get on with it and deliver the much needed reforms. Parents have been waiting for three years for the Government to make access to early learning programs more affordable. ECMS encourages the Government to consider improvements that will enable disadvantaged children to access enough early learning to make a real difference.
As early childhood education leaders, we are using our voice to persuade Government to deliver on its promise. We must focus on initiatives that will achieve positive outcomes for children, families and the economy.
You can also pledge your support by joining the Early Learning Everyone Benefits campaign.