In the first week of sitting for the Federal Government, IEU representatives attended a breakfast forum organised by the Australian Education Union (AEU) at Parliament House, along with other stakeholders from the early childhood sector.
The impetus for this gathering was a national reaction to the lack of foresight and support being provided by the current Federal Government to the sector.
The recent budget announcement confirming the reduction in funding of $440 million from June 2020, a shocking indictment of the Government’s approach to early education.
Shadow Minister for Education and Training Tanya Pilbersek, Greens Leader Richard Di Natale and Shadow Minster for Early Childhood and Development, Amanda Rishworth, spoke passionately in support of the sector while falling short of articulating a party position.
Invited guests from the Early Childhood Australia National Council and teachers currently working in early childhood centres from around Australia spoke eloquently of the intrinsic value and importance of education in the early years.
Speakers highlighted some important facts about early education:
• Australia ranks 23rd in spending on early childhood as a percentage of GDP, well below the OECD average.
• Expenditure on early childhood education and care services hit $9.1 billion in 2015-2016. Universal Access to preschool funding was less than 5% of this figure at only $408 million.
• The benefits for children of attending preschool attendance are equivalent to 20 weeks of schooling at the Year 3 level (Lifting Our Game; Report of the Review to Achieve educational Excellence in Australian Schools through early childhood interventions, p46).
• Australia invests less than 0.5% of GDP in early childhood education and care, well below the OECD average of 0.8% of GDP. Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland) invest significantly more – between 1.2 and 2% (Lifting Our Game; Report of the Review to Achieve educational Excellence in Australian Schools through Early Childhood interventions, p60).
• As a proportion of GDP, Australia invests less in pre-primary education than every OECD country for which data is available except Ireland and Switzerland. (Lifting Our Game; Report of the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools through Early Childhood interventions, p60).
• World Bank data shows that in 2015, of the 207 jurisdictions examined, the vast majority provide two or three years of pre-primary education. Only 11 provide one year – Algeria, Angola, Bermuda, Gibraltar, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ireland, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Australia. (Lifting Our Game; Report of the Review to Achieve educational Excellence in Australian Schools through Early Childhood interventions, p61).
• According to the State of Early Learning Report (2016) Australia remains behind the rest of the developed world in supporting access to quality early learning. As a result, one in five Australian children are vulnerable in key areas of development.
• According to OECD analysis, children who attend early childhood education perform better at age 15. For example, in the PISA 2015 science assessment, the average difference between students who had attended more than one year of early childhood education and those who had attended one year or less was the equivalent gap of nearly one and a half years of formal schooling (Lifting Our Game; Report of the Review to Achieve educational Excellence in Australian Schools through Early Childhood interventions, p47)
ACTU Presidents past and present Ged Kearney and Michele O’Neil lent their support and listened intently to the IEU representations delivered by Organiser Lyn Caton .