The importance of relationships

The way we think about early childhood education has changed a lot in a relatively short space of time. It’s amazing to remember that across Australia, guaranteed access to preschool education in the year before school is a very recent initiative. The Universal Access commitment from all Australian Governments (Federal, State and Territory) was only agreed in 2009. For a long time, education was something that only happened once children started formal primary education.

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Why do we struggle with critical reflection?

The National Quality Framework (NQF) reforms acknowledge that good outcomes for children can only be supported by qualified and professional educators, who regularly reflect on their own – and their colleagues’ – practice. As with any profession, research and knowledge is always changing and being updated. It’s important that educators, no matter what their qualifications or experience, always remember to give themselves time and space to discuss and analyse their own work.

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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

It’s hard to believe that Christmas has almost rolled around once again. All around the country early childhood services will be madly scrambling to finish portfolios and be dusting off the boxes of Christmas decorations that were unceremoniously shoved in the back of the shed in mid-January.

It’s also the time of the year when I start to question how we approach celebrations in Australian ECEC services, and get called “Grinch” a lot.

So, I’ll have to start this post off the same way I start off conversations I have with people in person.

I don’t hate Christmas. Actually, I like it! I loved it as a child, and we celebrate it at home with our two children.

I don’t think Christmas should be banned from centres. Outright bans on anything we do should always be critically questioned.

Suitably prepared, here comes the “but…”

(This is normally when the people I’m talking to tense up and clutch their tinsel and reindeer antlers protectively.)

Here are my problems with how I have seen Christmas (and a number of other celebrations) explored in children’s services.

  1. It’s by default. December 1st (or thereabouts) rolls around on the calendar, and we start doing “Christmas things”. The Early Years Learning Framework challenges us to be intentional and meaningful in our teaching. Transforming your service into Santa’s Grotto just because of a date is neither intentional nor necessarily meaningful.

    That is not to say that you cannot find intentional teaching opportunities in the themes, rituals and community connections of Christmas – but if we are truly honest with ourselves, is that why we are doing it? Or are we doing it because we’ve always done it, and everyone else is doing it?

  2. It’s limiting. Yes, Christmas is the dominant cultural celebration in our country. Ignoring it is not reflective of the lives of the children in our service. But it is not the only important event happening for children in December. By prioritising Christmas, what are we missing? As the EYLF asks, who is advantaged and disadvantaged when we work in certain ways?

    Christmas is everywhere – children will experience it regardless of what we do. But will every child learn about Ramadan, or Eid, or other significant events for other children around the world if we ignore it? What might that mean to the children and families in your community who do celebrate those events?

  3. It’s overwhelming. Christmas takes over everything. Decorations are out and activities usually start at the beginning of December and don’t stop until the end of the year. No other event on the calendar gets that focus. Imagine if NAIDOC Week was a month-long event for centres, with weeks of preparation leading up to it? What if centres took International Day of the Girl Child as seriously?

    Many will disagree with me, but I think both of those two examples are richer, more meaningful provocations for learning with children. (I’ll quickly note that there will undoubtedly be centres who are doing those things, but it is certainly not the norm.)Again, what are we missing out on by turning over our entire program to one event – that is celebrated in every other part of the community?

I know that even these three points will provoke fierce debate. I’m fully prepared to wear the Grinch label once again. But to say again – I am not calling for “bans on Christmas”. But I absolutely will say that for services that strive for high quality programs, ask questions about your celebrations.

What are children learning, and what are they not learning? Who is advantaged, who is disadvantaged? What could we do differently this year?

This article was originally posted on Early Childhood Australia’s blog The Spoke.

Closing the Gap report highlights the need for a greater focus on Indigenous perspectives in the early years

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The Prime Minister Tony Abbott handed down the sixth Closing the Gap Report in the House of Representatives yesterday.

While there have been some successes, primarily in child and maternal health, it is clear that Australia is not moving fast enough or smart enough to meet the 2030 targets.

Tony Abbott, who has regularly spent time in Indigenous communities and has connections with community leaders, has stated that he wants Indigenous Affairs to be a priority in his Government.

A worth aim, but it stands at odds with the Government’s funding cuts to legal services.

Meeting with 2030 targets will require a much higher level of investment, as well as a much greater effort to change attitudes and intolerance within the country. This has to start in early childhood.

Angela Webb in The Australian advocates strongly that targeted support needs to be directed into the early years, citing the wealth of evidence that support in this space reaps enormous benefits down the track.

Indigenous children already remain under-represented in early-years services. Yet there are currently only about 300 indigenous community-controlled early-years services across Australia, servicing a population of 146,714 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from birth to eight years old. This is manifestly inadequate, yet the conversation is not about redressing the vast gap in service coverage but the ongoing survival of the few existing services.

The early childhood education sector has a powerful role to play in addressing Indigenous disadvantage, but it is currently failing to meet that potential. As Webb writes:

At the time of greatest potential to reverse the disadvantage that many indigenous children face, we are letting them down. Funding for indigenous early childhood services, already lagging far behind that for other children, will be cut in June.

The National Quality Framework has included a strong focus on Indigenous perspectives, and is a foundation of the Early Years Learning Framework. However the complexities and challenges of working in this space require significant investment in professional development and training for educators and teachers, which has not been seen as yet.

Quality early learning experiences can support all children to get the best start in life, but given Australia’s past and our responsibility to Australia’s first people, there needs to be a significant and sustained focus on embedding Indigenous perspectives – first with educators, and through them young children and families.

What is Labor’s legacy on ECEC?

New governments mean new ministers. For the ECEC sector, that’s Sussan Ley. She was previously Shadow Minister for Childcare and Early Learning, and is now the Assistant Minister for Education, with responsibility for childcare and early learning.

During the campaign, the Coalition released their childcare and early learning policy on the Thursday night before polling day. For this they were rightly criticised.

The policy itself includes a proposal to review and potentially pause some of the foundational requirements of Labor’s National Quality Framework reforms.

This has divided the sector. Some fear that quality standards will stall and potentially be turned back, while others support the review due to immense difficulties meeting Labor’s new requirements.

The review will be particularly welcomed by the for-profit operators in the sector, who extensively lobbied the Coalition in opposition to scale back the reforms.

It is therefore interesting to note that one of Ley’s first acts in her new role was to attend Child Care Queensland and Australian Childcare Alliance’s annual conference — two organisations that represent a significant part of the private sector.

The Coalition have also hinted that the two-year commitment to increase early childhood educator’s wages under Labor’s Early Years Quality Fund may not be honoured.

No more detail about the Government’s plans for the sector is forthcoming, so it seems worthwhile at this time to focus on the last six years and reflect on what Labor’s legacy on early education and care will be.

The statistics alone are significant — over a million children are now in some form of formal childcare. This can be attributed in large part to the increase of the Child Care Rebate from 30 per cent to 50 per cent of out-of-pocket expenses, sparking a huge increase in enrolments.

Their signature legacy in this area will of course be the National Quality Framework (NQF). Agreed by COAG and introduced at the beginning of 2012, the NQF was a significant undertaking – bringing together diverse, uneven and outdated regulatory standards across the states and territories and unifying them under a single framework.

For the first time in Australia, there is now a single standard that every Long Day Care, School Age Care, Family Day Care and Preschool service have to meet — and be regularly assessed to ensure they are meeting it.

That it took this long for a minimum standard to be set for the wellbeing and safety of children in formal childcare was a national disgrace.

A last-minute measure to address the appallingly low wages for early childhood educators, the Early Years Quality Fund, proved to be divisive and inequitable, actually contributing to issues within the sector rather than solving them.

The Labor government did however commit to supporting a wage equity case at Fair Work Australia within two years, with a focus on gender being the primary cause of the low wages (similar to the Social and Community Services Award case).

Labor should be commended for convincing the Coalition State Governments to sign on to at COAG, but the implementation of the reforms have been patchy.

The structural issues facing the sector were, and are, huge. The only thing larger was the capacity of governments, Labor and Liberal, to cheerfully ignore them.

The collapse of ABC Learning in 2008 should have been the catalyst for the newly-installed Rudd government to address the inherent contradictions in having early learning and care for children farmed out to private operators, and then spending billions of dollars to families to subsidise families using those private businesses.

This recipe has created low wages and a lack of professional recognition for the educators who actually do the work, and has allowed the private for-profit sector to set the agenda on early learning.

Over 70 per cent of the sector is now privately operated, putting profits ahead of the benefit of children.

For-profit advocacy groups, such as the Australian Childcare Alliance, have successfully pushed the case with the then-Opposition Coalition Government that the sector is “drowning in red tape”, a blatant lie.

Instead of having the vision to tackle the for-profit operators, the Labor Government essentially continued on with business as usual, continuing to spend billions on rebates instead of investing directly into the sector.

Had it done so, the NQF could have been rolled out and implemented smoothly, protecting the scheme from being dismantled, the likely result under the Coalition.

The childcare sector as a whole was never going to be ready to implement even the beginning of the qualification requirements by 2014. As has been recently reported, organisations are having to seek qualified teachers overseas due to a systemic shortage of locals.

The NQF should have been accompanied with significant funding and support to the sector, and a long-term campaign to gain public support for the benefits of early childhood education.

The conversation should have been shifted from just workplace productivity or economic imperatives, but for the capacity for accessibly, high quality early learning to tackle disadvantage and inequity and invest in Australia’s future.

Labor has gifted the Coalition a major goal on childcare. Their failure to invest the necessary funding and support into the sector has allowed the Coalition to persuasively argue that the reforms are a burden, and are actually making things worse.

The NQF should have been the turning point the sector so badly needs. It should have fundamentally and permanently altered the national perspective on early childhood education in Australia.

But, as with so much of Labor’s time in government, this strong vision was hampered by an inability to actually implement the reforms on the ground.

Instead, it seems likely that for-profit advocacy and a new government happy to buy the line that the NQF is unnecessary bureaucracy will see the prospects for young children severely diminished.

Labor’s mismanagement of the NQF implementation may hamper our fight for recognition and structural reform for years. What a legacy.

This article was originally published on the New Matilda website on 26 September 2013.

Sloan’s bizarre rant exposes broader conservative disdain for ECEC

What began as a short, strange and fairly callous blog post by Judith Sloan on “dim-witted” educators from “second-rate universities” has reached national attention thanks to the author’s appearance on ABC’s Q&A.

It hardly seems worth going into Sloan’s lack of apology, or indeed evidence for her assertion. The point of the article, assuming it had one, was surely to generate publicity for Sloan herself – wholly successfully.

I posted a fairly light-hearted and “snarky” response to the blog on Friday night, which was written less out of frustration with her view of my work than by confusion as to the frankly bizarre content.

But it’s worth taking a slightly more serious look at her published thoughts, as they showcase the fairly common conservative or right-wing perspective on early childhood education.

Sloan’s inclusion of the term “Stalinist straight jacket” is telling. The notion of universal access early childhood education (ECE) for all children is a direct attack on conservative “family values”.

The conservative argument is essentially that the best place for a child, any child, is in a stable home with Mum and Dad (certainly not two Dads, or two Mums, but we’ll save that for another entry).

Anything outside of that, particularly when it is run or funded by Government, is a left-wing form of social engineering, designed to produce Little Leftists. Coincidentally, the “second-rate Universities” Sloan casually mentions are also often accused of being Socialist-factories.

Now the view that children are better off with a loving Mother and Father (and more usually the Mother) is a deceptively simple one, and any arguments for and against are usually run with high emotions on both sides.

Proponents of universal access to ECE argue that it provides a level playing field for all children, regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds. These two viewpoints represent the nerve that Sloan hit on (with no regard to subtlety).

Those who argue, like myself, for universal access to high-quality ECE programs with highly qualified teachers and educators are usually hit back with the same arguments.

“So you’re saying that you can only be a good parent if you have a degree?” “So you’re saying if I don’t send my child to childcare I’m making them stupid?”.

To be clear, as I so often have to be, I am certainly not saying either of those things. Do I believe that high-quality ECE can be of benefit in the long-term to children? Yes.

But I never attended childcare when I was a young child. I still did well in school, have a University degree (admittedly not from one that would meet with Judith Sloan’s approval) and have a great job in a sector I love.

My parents had no degrees in early childhood education, but helped set my brother and I up to work hard in our studies (primary, secondary and tertiary) and in our work.

However, I was extremely fortunate to have two well-educated, stable and loving parents with no mental health issues or disabilities. I was given every chance to be successful.

But we are part of a society where not every child has those same opportunities. Some children will grow up in challenging and disruptive environments, where their parents are suffering immense challenges of their own.

Advocating for universal access to ECE is about ensuring that any child, no matter the circumstances of their home life, can be given the same head start I was given.

Such a system would mean that any child could even have the opportunity to attend a first-rate, Judith Sloane-approved University!

Individually-focused learning through fun and play, targeted work on social skills and developing a love of learning can be of immeasurable benefit to young children. These are the focuses of the “Stalinist” National Quality Framework (NQF) for Early Childhood Education and Care.

The main document we use to support children’s learning, the Early Years Learning Framework, actually encourages children’s learning to be unique, individual and contextual to each child and their community. It asks educators to consider diverse perspectives when supporting children’s learning.

About as far away you can get from teaching every child to think and act the same. It almost makes me wonder whether Sloan bothered to check it out all.

The NQF is also there to ensure children’s health and safety – surely a reasonable ask when you consider that the latest figures show that over a million children are now in some form of ECE program.

Ireland’s loose system of regulation and minimal oversight has resulted in terrible outcomes for children, and is rightly coming under increased scrutiny.

Considering that we have a similar system of lowly-paid, overworked and as evidenced so clearly by Sloan also a disrespected workforce of educators and teachers, tight regulatory controls are an absolute necessity to ensure children are safe.

ECE is not about replacing parents. It’s about recognising that supporting young children to reach their potential can have significant benefits to society as a whole, including lifting families out of generational disadvantage.

These arguments will never convince conservatives like Sloan, who instinctually see any Government work with children as the worst form of socialism.

But for people like myself, dim-witted or not, our work with children is vitally important. All children deserve the best possible start in life, and I will continue to advocate for the work do.

This article was originally published on the New Matilda website.

Attention, fellow Stalinists! We’re rumbled!

Over the weekend, Judith Sloan posted a reasoned, referenced and thought-provoking article on the Catallaxy Files on the state of early childhood education and care (ECEC) in Australia.

Oh, no, sorry. She actually posted this.

Now I usually don’t work up the energy to respond to an individual piece on my chosen profession (most likely due to a lack of proper education from my second-rate university), but in this case I felt the need to address one or two of the points.

Apologies in advance for any typos or errors of fact – these must be expected of anyone as dim-witted as an early childhood teacher.

Sloan has appeared to have just noticed the Federal Government’s implementation of the National Quality Framework for ECEC. It did only commence in January 2012, so to have noticed its existence by June 2013 is a credit to Sloan and her undoubtably first-class tertiary education.

Sloan’s incisive analysis of the sector and its “dim-witted” Minister, Kate Ellis (possibly the worst insult: direct comparison to a politician), identifies rising costs and issues around the freezing of the Child Care Rebate.

But she holds off on the truly terrifying revelations until the next paragraph. Children of one of her relatives, she informs us (presumably visibly shuddering as she types) are sent home with a weekly newsletter, informing the innocent and fear-stricken families of what has happened at the centre that week.

Now, in centres I have worked at and managed I used to send out similar missives. I can only now apologise to those families, and indeed the nation at large, for this weekly campaign of terror. It is clear now that the positive feedback from families and sense of community that was generated by these updates was in fact a smokescreen, lies stammered from the mouths of mothers and fathers clearly suffering from the most recent onslaught.

Sloan then pounces on a quote from a Centre Director, caught out in what I can only assume was a moment of drunk pleasure after printing out that week’s newsletter, speaking about working to ensure “the consistency and quality of services provided to children and families across the country.”

Pointing out the very real and tangible similarities with a framework supporting children’s learning, health and safety and the worst excesses of Stalinist Russia, Sloan finally unravels the dark heart of childcare centres and preschools everywhere.

I can only for my part say that I would happily be doing more to indoctrinate the mindless future-socialists under my command, if only my second-rate education hadn’t left me with only the barest understanding of Socialism itself. It’s some kind of Facebook or something, right?

Now there are those of my colleagues who will speak about the importance of having a robust framework around the safety, wellbeing and learning of children in a sector where over a million children attend some form of early education and care.

Some of those colleagues might even foolishly (and confusingly) point towards recent events in Ireland, where a combination of loose regulation, low-paid and overworked staff have led to direct institutional harm to children.

I have even, shockingly, heard that early childhood teachers working with young children raise the quality of their learning and their potential future prospects. Often in the same breath as people telling me that targeted and play-based learning sets children up for future education, and is particularly needed for vulnerable children.

We can only own up now, and implement Sloan’s prescription of “greater choice, diversity and competition”.

After all, the ultimate expression of capitalism is farming out the education and wellbeing of children to the tender mercies of the free market.

What can possibly go wrong?

Welcoming men into ECEC

The most recent figures from the Australian Productivity Commission put the percentage of male educators working in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector at 3 per cent.

This is obviously an incredibly small amount, and is similar to other countries around the world. Why do so few men choose to work in early education?

There is no one simple answer to this question. Working with young children has traditionally been seen in society as a women’s role. The “traditional” roles of men and women were as “breadwinners” and “nurturers” respectively.

As child care and early education developed in Australia, there was a common societal understanding that the work would be performed primarily by women.

But as gender attitudes and preconceptions change, this is increasingly seen as the wrong way to look at the roles of men and women in early education.

Women have, and still are, fighting the battle to be seen as equally able to have a successful career and take powerful leadership roles in the business community.

This means that expectations around fathers have also slowly changed. Men can now expect to share the work of raising children, where once it was solely the women’s domain.

This cultural shift does not seem to have extended to early education though. The low percentage of male educators is evidence that the profession is still regarded in society as women’s work.

This, when combined with a national shortage of qualified educators and high rates of turnover, constitutes a serious problem for the ECEC sector.

Low wages and lack of professional recognition are a problem for all educators, male and female. The low wage is often given as a significant reason for the inability to recruit male educators. While this is certainly a factor, it is surely not the only reason.

The underlying problem lies in the perception of the work. When it is seen primarily as women’s work, men who choose to begin a career in ECEC can be viewed with suspicion by families and even by fellow educators.

Paul Sargent, a US-based education researcher, has collected many stories of male educators suffering prejudice and suspicion. He notes that even if they manage to avoid the worst of this, they are often expected to perform their roles in particularly “masculine” ways – for instance, focusing on outdoor play and physical development activities.

This can be problematic for men who work with children in different ways, such as being nurturing and caring. Men who act outside “the way men should act” are likely to be viewed as “different”, if not viewed with outright suspicion.

Anecdotally however, there are many examples of services wishing for more male educators. They are often described as a bringing a different perspective to the work environment, particularly among teams that have always been completely staffed by women.

Research has also shown that positive male role models in the early years can deliver benefits to children and families in disadvantage.

Yet this has not translated into higher numbers of men entering the ECEC sector as educators and teachers.

With the staffing crisis currently in evidence around the country, it is clear that breaking down the barriers to men choosing a career in the sector can only be of positive benefit to ECEC centres.

If the percentage could be raised even slightly, to 10 or 15 per cent, this would constitute a large number of new educators and teachers working with children.

So what can ECEC organisations, managers and directors do to encourage more men to apply for one of the vacancies in their centres?

A good place to start is in the centre itself. How are male role models portrayed in your learning environments? Is there evidence of fathers and male teachers and educators positively engaging in the lives of children? Do men feel welcomed into your space?

Make a decision to include a positive male image in all centre marketing and published materials. This works to reinforce in the minds of potential applicants that they have a place in your organisation. It also actively counteracts negative and damaging prejudices in society about men working with young children.

A great example of this is with the NSW-based organisation Big Fat Smile, which clearly sets out in its marketing that men are encouraged to work in their ECEC centres. This is a very inclusive approach to marketing a career in the sector.

Get involved with local schools, colleges and careers fairs and talk to young men about the rewarding career opportunities that come from working in ECEC.

Include positive stories from men already working in your organisation in newsletters and updates to families and the wider community.

Retaining men in the sector is just as important as recruitment, so it is important that men (as with all educators) are supported during induction and probation periods.

Issues that may arise with families (usually in the Infants rooms) need to be sensitively and respectfully managed. Leaders in the ECEC organisation need to take a proactive role in working with families to challenge bias and prejudice, and not simply move a male educator out of an Infants room.

It is also important that organisations, leaders and educators reflect on diverse ways of working with children, and ensure that men feel comfortable teaching and educating children in a way that works for them.

This is also important to share with children. The Early Years Learning Framework encourages us to work with children on challenging gender bias and assumptions. We need to remind children that boys can play with dolls, and girls can engage in construction activities (to use two simple examples).

Breaking down gender stereotypes with young children can give them a positive attitude to their own potential and those of their peers, and work to change the broader views of society.

Just as we are still working to embed the idea in society that girls can grow up to be and do anything they choose, in ECEC settings we need to see organisations demonstrating and advocating that teaching and educating is not “women’s work”, but a rewarding profession for all.

This article was originally published April 16 2013 on the website careforkids.com.au.

Why ECEC is not over-regulated

Kids banned from blowing out candles on birthday cakes. Centres fined $50,000 for changing two nappies at the same time. Centres closing under the weight of bureaucracy — is overregulation the biggest threat to early childhood education? Only if you listen to the tabloids.

In 2007, the Labor Government set the goal of raising standards in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) Centres. This led to the 2012 launch of the National Quality Framework (NQF), a package of reforms to the sector that included new qualification requirements for educators, lowering of ratios in some states and territories, and a new national oversight body — the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority. The reforms are to be rolled out in stages until 2020.

The majority of community not-for-profit providers have enthusiastically backed the NQF reforms, citing international research that stresses the long-term importance of targeted and quality early learning programs, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Private operators have bitterly opposed the reforms, citing the need to raise fees for families and the burdensome nature of the new regulations. In South Australia, some have threatened to mobilise families in Early Childhood and Childcare Minister Kate Ellis’ electorate.

Sussan Ley, the opposition spokesperson for childcare and early childhood learning, has regularly spoken out against the Government’s reforms, calling them “over-regulation” and pledging to reduce “red tape” if the Coalition wins government. This has of course been gleefully taken up by a right-wing press eager to attribute the “dead hand of government regulation” to anything that sits still long enough.

I was lucky to have a personal meeting with Ley in 2012 where she took the opportunity to deny that the Coalition was planning on rolling back the NQF reforms. But it was also clear from that meeting that Ley and the Opposition are focused purely on addressing knee-jerk reactions from the sector on regulations, rather than actually engaging with any of the deeper issues. She also seemed dismissive of the Early Years Learning Framework, the early learning guide for early childhood teachers and educators.

I have absolutely no doubt that Ley could find any number of people who complain about over-regulation. I’ve certainly done enough of it myself.

In my role as a centre director there are volumes of strict regulation that must be adhered to — not to mention the paperwork. But they are are absolutely essential.

In ECEC centres, as well as being responsible for their ongoing education and learning, we are legally responsible for the care and wellbeing of children. Most centres being opened these days are licenced for upwards of 100 children per day.

Somebody’s son, somebody’s daughter. Being entrusted into the legal protection of someone else.

Regulation is not there to make people’s lives a living hell (although I may disagree after a couple of hours of filling out forms). They are there to mark a standard, and ensure that that standard is met.

ECEC centres, like everything else in this society, are human enterprises. Just like every other sector and profession, some centres will be great, some will not be so great. When you’re dealing with young children, we cannot allow the not-so-great centres to remain that way.

I can handle a bakery baking some low quality muffins due to a lack of regulation. I can’t handle the centre my daughter attends providing children low quality education and care and possibly endangering their safety.

It is easy, too easy, to simply claim that red tape and bureaucracy hold enterprising and innovative people back. Regulation in ECEC is a safety net for children and families that ensures centres have to meet a certain standard.

The idea of “rolling back” regulations is not only simplistic and misguided, but frightening.

With a low paid and overworked sector receiving little professional recognition and leaving their work in droves, less regulation will result in more incidents with children’s health and safety.

To put it bluntly, any ECEC service or director that cannot handle the regulatory burden shouldn’t be in business. As someone with 10 years experience in the sector, I find the new regulations far clearer, understandable and supportive.

One of the goals of the NQF reforms was to remove unnecessary bureaucracy, particularly at the state and territory level, and create a single set of national regulations. To a huge extent, this has happened.

The Opposition and media have delighted in pointing out obscure regulations as evidence of the “nanny-state”. That said, the Opposition would be the first to cry foul and insist on inquiries and investigations into any potential serious incidents in an ECEC centre.

I would suggest to Ley that she focus more on the “Early Childhood Learning” part of her title instead of pandering to complaints about over-regulation. The lowering of ratios and raising of qualification standards that are part of the National Quality Framework are integral to lasting quality in the sector.

The reforms of the NQF are a step in the right direction, and need to be steadily built upon and expanded. Rolling them back would not only be disastrous for the sector and for children, but would directly put children at risk of harm.

This story was originally published on the New Matilda website.

Wage disparity between ECTs in ECEC and Government Preschools

Only hairdressers, animal trainers and supermarket checkout operators earn less than childcare workers, according to the latest Bureau of Statistics figures. Full-time childcare workers earn $811.40 a week, compared with the average full-time weekly earnings of $1122.60, forcing many to take on second jobs to make ends meet.

Cosima Marriner SMH (24/2/13)