Bought and sold: Early education in Australia

A couple of things happened in the early education sector recently. Neither of them are huge deals on their own, but they both represent trends in the sector that tell us a lot about where we are at right now.

One of Australia’s largest early education organisations ditched the “Early Learning” in their name for “Childcare and Education”. Some blokes in suits, with no early education qualifications whatsoever, did it to grab a few more clicks from families on Google they could convert into revenue.

And an AFL team has decided that a “childcare centre” near their stadium shaped like an enormous football would be pretty cute. It’s called Kool Kids, of course. More blokes, more suits, same amount of early education qualifications (zero).

What matters about these announcements isn’t that they’ve happened. It’s that they’ve happened and no-one cares. Reached for comment, Australia’s early education sector said: shrug emoji.

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Imagine: a vision for early childhood education in Australia

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Submissions to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Childcare and Early Learning have now closed. The public submissions currently available are a mixed bag – calls for quality reform balanced by companies advertising their products, individuals saying that Mums should just stay at home with their kids and many pushes to extend subsidies to nannies.

But if you only read one submission, make it the incredible submission from Community Child Care Co-Operative NSW.

Simply titled “Imagine”, it takes the audacious strategy of challenging the terms of reference of the inquiry and asking the Commission to instead consider child-focused reforms.

No family in Australia is told that there is no place for their child in a school, and neither should they be told that there is no place for their child in an early education and care service.

As well as succinctly analysing the current structural issues facing the sector, the submission articulates clear steps forward to resolve them.

Critically, it directly challenges the market-based model that now dominates the sector. This is significant and necessary advocacy from CCCCNSW.

This is a must-read for anyone in the ECEC sector.