We’re now into week three of the 2013 Election campaign. Early childhood education and care issues have bubbled into few announcements and press releases, but as usual has not been a key priority for any of the major parties.
Labor has committed to continuing the work of the National Quality Framework reforms, but has not announced any measures to support the sector to meet the unrealistic qualification requirements due to commence in 2014. Labor will also continue to support the pay equity case at Fair Work Australia, and money from the Early Years Quality Fund has already begun to roll out.
The Coalition will instigate a Productivity Commission into childcare affordability. Beyond that, no idea.
The Greens have announced $200 million “expanding and upgrading existing community childcare facilities”. The Greens have also committed to the NQF.
All in all, a disappointment. Politically, we are miles and miles away from where we should be as a sector.
At the moment I’m reading “Children’s Chances: How Countries Can Move from Surviving to Thriving” by Jody Heymann. It’s a great, recently-published and up-to-date analysis of data from almost every country in the world. It looks at a variety of metrics on children’s chances to survive and thrive, and has a couple of great chapters on education.
It highlights to importance of early childhood education on long-term outcomes for children. In Australia, the policy debate is still stubbornly framed around waiting lists, fees and council zoning issues.
As I have been saying despairingly to my colleagues over the last few weeks, the real driver of policies for children in this country is workplace flexibility. Ponder that and become depressed.
Until we can get the conversation back to children, and the potential benefits of investment on the early years, nothing is going to change.