In the light of recent public statements on potential changes to the National Quality Framework, I have written to the Assistant Minister for Education Sussan Ley. I would strongly recommend that advocates for quality children’s education and care do the same. Contact details are here.

To the Honourable Sussan Ley MP,
Assistant Minister for Education

Minister, my name is Liam McNicholas. I am an early childhood teacher working in the Australian Capital Territory.

I have been extremely concerned to read and hear your recent official statements on the early childhood education and care sector. I undertake my role because of the incredible potential to postively affect the lives of children. Not just in the time they are with me and my colleagues, but their entire lives.

An ever-growing body of research consistently demonstrates that there is no more important time in the development of a human being than their first five years. Australia’s early childhood education and care sector has an incredible potential to address inequality for children, and set them up for their future success.

But there is also potential to have negative impacts.

Early childhood educators have some of the worst wages in this country. Turnover of educators is extremely high. There are not enough educators to properly support children, particulary the youngest infants.

Services are not directly funded by the Federal Government, so must always struggle to find a balance between charging enough to do our jobs properly and ensure it is accessible to all families.

In a system with these pressures, the potential for children to be harmed is high. Not just physical or mental harm, but in such a crucial period of their development if there are negative impacts on a child it could follow them their entire life.

It is clearly cruical that we get this work right.

The National Quality Framework has been a successful project in ensuring that there is a national standard on quality for all children accessing an ECEC service. It also holds those services accountable.

It is extremely concering to hear you, and your colleagues, describe it as “drowning in red tape” or a “bureaucratic nightmare”.

Really, Minister? Keeping children safe is too much of a “nightmare” for the services and people you are speaking to?

I’ve worked in the ECEC sector for 12 years. I have always worked for community not-for-profit operations, as I believe this is the only current ethical way to support children’s learning and wellbeing in the sector.

I have been a teacher, a Centre Director and an Area Manager. Regulations are not burdensome, they are the framework that supports us to do our job well.

It forces those in the for-profit sector who would rather just make a quick buck to meet a minmum standard.

My suggestion to you when you meet with people in the sector who complain about “red tape” is to suggest they find another job to do. No-one is forcing them to stay.

If meeting 58 standards is too much like hard work, find something easier to do. Find something that won’t directly impact on the lives of Australia’s youngest citizens.

This work is crucial. It should be hard.

I implore you to show leadership in your new role, Minister. Consult and engage with a wider group of people than the private sector, who do not have the best interests of children at heart – only their profits.

I implore you to stop using easy, damaging and false language like “drowning in red tape”. Are you seriously of the belief that people and organisations working with young children shouldn’t have to fill in a bit of paperwork?

The ratio and qualification requirements at the foundation of the NQF are essential to the ongoing quality improvements in the sector. I will be advocating strongly that they are carried out, and indeed extended.

My motivation for that advocacy is the best interests of children.

I ask you to question what the motivations of those who would halt or wind back the National Quality Framework are.

I doubt children are in there. I am sure dollar signs are.

You have a leadership role in our sector Minister Ley, and I would welcome any opportunities to engage with you on this critical issue.

Yours sincerely

Liam McNicholas

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