Dispelling the 'paying for playing' notion

Lifting Our Game, a report by Susan Pascoe AM and Professor Deborah Brennan, is playing a significant part in raising the profile of early childhood teachers to government and the community at large.

The report was jointly commissioned by all state and territory governments who wanted research carried out into early childhood education to match the Gonski Review into school education.

Presenting on Lifting Our Game at the IEUA NSW/ACT Early Childhood Conference in September, Pascoe explained how the report provided ample evidence of the need for greater investment in early childhood education and its workforce.

The report examined the significant contributions high quality early childhood education makes to school outcomes.

Children who participated in a high quality early childhood education program are:

  • more likely to be ready for school
  • higher achievers in school
  • less likely to need special education placements
  • less likely to repeat a grade in school
  • more likely to complete high school
  • more likely to go on to further education, and
  • more likely to be employed, and at a higher wage.

OECD analysis of PISA data found that better student performance at age 15 is strongest in school systems that:

  • provide a longer duration of early childhood education to a larger proportion of the student population
  • have smaller child to teacher ratios in preprimary education, and
  • invest more per child at the preprimary level of education.

Pascoe said while the states and territories are interested in early childhood education for its intrinsic educational value, the Federal Government is interested in workforce participation and return on investment.

Pascoe said the report shows the government can get a ‘double dividend’ from early childhood education: increased workforce participation and better social and educational outcomes.

“Investing in early childhood education is generally more effective and economic than trying to close developmental gaps later. It makes a meaningful difference in building the capabilities and confidence a child needs to transition smoothly from early childhood education into school. Data from the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) show that in both advantaged and disadvantaged communities, children who attend preschool are less likely to be developmentally vulnerable than children who did not attend preschool.

“Ongoing reforms that lay the foundations in the early years for future learning and close the learning differential between advantaged and disadvantaged students, are essential to ensure all children have the best start in life.

“Australia needs to create the pre-conditions for excellence in school education by increasing access to high quality early learning, and engaging parents, carers and students as partners in learning from a child’s early years.

“Developmentally vulnerable children are more likely to face difficulties settling into school. Unless they receive additional support early, this impedes a child’s long term ability to learn and to achieve strong educational outcomes.

“To continue to grow student outcomes, we need to attract and retain the best and most effective teachers in the profession. Teaching must become a high status profession of expert educators.

To sustain continuous improvement, Australian schools need access to: valid and reliable evidence of effective teaching practice; independent and rigorous evaluations of commercial and other teaching and educational interventions; and the most recent findings on educational innovation and research — in an accessible format that can be readily translated into classroom use.”

Government asks

Australian governments should:

  • agree to permanent, adequate funding for Universal Access in the year before school and the National Quality Framework
  • preserve flexible early childhood education and care delivery on a jurisdictional basis, within nationally agreed objectives and standards
  • review the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians to embed the importance of the early years as the foundation for learning in core education frameworks and policies, including articulating governments’ objectives for child outcomes
  • work towards early childhood education investment reaching at least the OECD average, as a proportion of GDP
  • progressively implement universal access to 600 hours per year of a quality early childhood education program, for all three year olds, with access prioritised for disadvantaged children, families and communities during roll out
  • ensure future early childhood education investment and reform should include a range of additional, targeted interventions, for both children and their families, to ensure all children can fully benefit from a quality early childhood education and have the skills and attributes needed for school and later life, and
  • promote and support full participation by three and four year olds in quality early childhood education programs, in particular to maximise participation by vulnerable or disadvantaged children.