Government announce inquiry into evidence base for early childhood and school

More than two years since its large-scale look into the structure and implementation of early childhood education and care funding, the Productivity Commission will be dipping its toe back into the sector. Education Minister Simon Birmingham announced on Friday that:

Starting today, the inquiry will examine the current information available in early childhood education and schooling and make recommendations about how to improve the evidence on which future government action is based.

The announcement was somewhat out of left field, and beyond the usual statements around the importance of data and research it’s unclear exactly why this inquiry has been commissioned.

The focus on ECEC is welcome though, and somewhat at odds with a Government that has consistently rolled back language to more old-school terms like childcare.

The Terms of Reference are up on the Productivity Commission website, and state that:

Improved access and greater ability to link and analyse national data could enhance the quality and scope of national education evidence that can be used to monitor educational outcomes and inform policy development and evaluation.

The scope of the Inquiry seems to be focused on how data can be better collected and then shared between Government agencies. Data collection in ECEC is fairly patchy, and not really focused on learning outcomes. It will be interesting to see what the Commission recommends in this area.

The inquiry is due to report back by December – after the next election. Consultation processes are yet to be announced.

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This is what advocacy looks like

rchvictoria

I’ve written before about the failings of advocacy in Australia’s early childhood education sector. We’re too fragmented, our voices aren’t loud enough, and our actions don’t back our rhetoric.

With that context in mind, it has been nothing short of incredible to watch the actions of the doctors, nurses and support staff of Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) over the past few days. Their visible, clear and brave advocacy on an issue so important as the health and wellbeing of vulnerable children is inspirational.

For anyone not following the news, the staff at RCH have publicly stated that children from immigration detention facilities being treated in the hospital will not be returned to those facilities. This a powerful act of advocacy from a traditionally conservative group – and could even be in breach of the Government’s insidious “Border Force Act”, which in effect criminalises health workers¬†speaking out about the treatment of people in immigration detention.

“We see a whole range of physical, mental, emotional and social disturbances that are really severe and we have no hope of improving these things when we have to discharge our patients back into detention,” one paediatrician told News Corp.

The outlet reported that it understood the issue was sparked by a month-long standoff between doctors and authorities over the release of a child with a range of health issues this year.

Staff have also been outraged at immigration guards placed at the entrances of some patients’ rooms for 24 hours a day.

This is a courageous stand, and should be supported. This is an opportunity for the early childhood sector to add its own voice to this issue.

I’m proud to be an employee of an organisation that today released a public statement of support for the RCH staff, and called for an end to children in detention. I’d be very grateful if you would read and share that statement.

I wonder how many other organisations that work with young children will follow suit. If you’re in a position to, ask your organisation to do so. Please send any links to me, I’d love to share them out.

Children’s Week launches in two weeks time. The theme is “Children’s Rights are Human Rights”. Wouldn’t it be amazing if instead the usual “dress-up days” and “teddy bears picnics”, we saw leading early childhood organisations stand together and show their support.

New report card released on children’s wellbeing in Australia

Board member, lawyer and Yuin man, Tim Goodwin, spoke about the implications of this [ARACY] Report Card for our Indigenous people, noting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are doing worse than average on 100% of the indicators. Mr Goodwin drew a moving connection between this Report Card and the narratives we Australians can pass on to the next generations, beseeching the audience, “Let’s write a new story, to read a new story to our children”.

Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (25/3/2013)

The launch of this updated Report Card on the Wellbeing of Young Australians shows that we still have a lot of work to do on improving opportunities for our children, particularly our Indigenous children.

Labor MP Andrew Leigh also makes the sound point that programs and intervention need to be evidence-based, and not rooted in ideology.