Released this morning, the Commission’s report has wide-ranging recommendations which, if implemented, would have profound impacts on the quality of early childhood education and care nationwide.
David O’ Byrne, Acting National Secretary (pictured below), said: "United Voice has examined the report on the basis of what is in children’s best interest. We welcome the recommendation that the National Quality Framework (NQF) be a prerequisite of all government funding.
"However, several key recommendations to undermine NQF standards would weaken the sector’s ability to provide the high quality education and care essential to meet children’s developmental needs."
- Removing the requirement for degree-qualified educators for children under three years of age. Learning begins at birth. Experts recognise the first three years are critical to the brain’s development, and the foundation on which all future development occurs. Children need these early learning specialists who are trained in and understand children’s learning so they get the best start in life.
- Removing the requirements for diploma qualifications. Diploma-trained educators have skills and training to develop play-based programs that are important for children’s learning and development.
- Allowing centres to operate below current educator-to-child ratios in programs that are important for children’s learning and development.
Positive recommendations include:
- Simplifying the current payment system by combining the childcare benefit and rebate, and paying the funding directly to providers - a long overdue measure which will cut costs and remove uncertainty for parents.
- Continuation of universal preschool access for four year olds.
- Increased subsidies for children with disabilities and additional needs.
- The report acknowledges that, despite their skills and qualifications, educators are low paid.
David said: "We support the recommendation that government funded nannies must be qualified and covered by the NQF. Ensuring and monitoring compliance with the NQF will be challenging but vital, as will employer compliance with employment laws and regulations.
"However, we all know that the devil is in the detail and we will continue to urge the Commission to look at what is in the best interest of the child. When it comes to educators, the Commission has acknowledged their skills, qualifications and low pay, but has failed to recommend practical solutions.
"If families are to have the sustainable, quality sector on which they can depend, we must stop the continuing exodus of educators from the sector. Every week 180 leave, driven from their profession by poverty level wages. This fundamental problem must be fixed.
"The Commission’s report has clearly been constrained by the Government’s insistence that funding for early childhood education and care will not increase. This is despite Australia having one of the developed world’s lowest levels of expenditure on this essential service.
"The Australian Government spent approximately 0.45% of GDP on ECEC in 2013. The OECD average spending on ECEC is 0.6%. New Zealand, which the Commission looks to as a best practice model, spends 1% of GDP. We must catch up with this spending to ensure quality outcomes for children. For their sake, we encourage the Government to reconsider its position on funding.
"United Voice looks forward to engaging with the Commission in the next phase of its inquiry. We will put the case for strengthening the sector’s ability to provide young children with the quality that is their right, regardless of their families’ income or where they live."