Every child deserves to thrive by five

The IEU has recently become a campaign partner with Thrive by Five, which has the goal of bringing about funding reform for early childhood education at a national level.

Thrive by Five wants to see early childhood education placed at the top of the national agenda, leading to meaningful reform. It is gathering partners from all pillars of the community, including key players in the early childhood development sector, academic and health research experts, child and family welfare organisations, women’s organisations, unions and business.

As a key player in early childhood education reform, with its Equal Remuneration Order Case before the Fair Work Commission to be resolved soon, the IEU can play a significant role in the Thrive by Five agenda.

Here, CEO Jay Weatherill outlines Thrive by Five’s vision, which gels with the IEU’s long held goals for the early childhood sector.

This project can help heal some of the trauma and recreate a positive relationship and respect for the land and environment around us.

As teachers and educators have long understood, the first five years influence lifetime learning, health, and wellbeing trajectories.

Neuroscientific developments have shown us that skills and behaviours developed in the early years are fundamental to a child’s lifelong learning. Children learn social, interpersonal and cognitive skills that will help them lead healthy, productive lives.

Learning starts long before school, with almost all brain development happening before the age of five. Early education and care is therefore an important opportunity for children to develop to their potential and become equipped with everything they need for future success. The importance of early learning is too significant to be ignored by politicians and key decision makers.

The current national early learning system needs improvement. Originally designed as a child-minding service, it is outdated. The pandemic has also highlighted how important the system is to children, teachers and educators, parents and the economy.

Teachers and educators have been fundamental frontline workers during the crisis, holding the community together by nurturing children and ensuring their continued development so their parents can perform other essential jobs.

Teachers and educators are essential workers. Their commitment allowed other critical workers such as doctors, nurses and teachers, to continue their efforts.

Reward for sacrifice

Now it’s time to reward teachers and educators for their sacrifice and effort. We need a universally accessible, high quality early learning system that reflects the professionalism of teachers and educators, children and parents.

That’s why Minderoo Foundation’s Thrive by Five initiative is advocating for a new system of early learning to benefit all. (Minderoo Foundation is a philanthropic organisation: www.Minderoo.org)

Thrive by Five is campaigning to reform the early learning system, to build better futures for our children. This, in turn, means better educational outcomes, better job prospects, a more productive economy and reduced costs of late intervention in social welfare, the justice system and the health system. After all, early learning and care is the foundation of lifelong development.

Essentially, Thrive by Five is asking for:

  1. universal access to early learning
  2. integrated services with children at the centre
  3. quality early learning delivery standards
  4. place-based, community-driven centres, and
  5. early childhood development system connected to the public education system.

This cannot be achieved without appropriate remunerated, qualified teachers and educators who have secure jobs. They are critical to a child’s lifelong development and, more than anyone, understand the value of early learning.

Thrive by Five is advocating for early childhood teachers and educators to develop the skills and knowledge they need, receive proper pay and have the necessary resources to ensure every child gets a head start to life. Early learning centres should nurture development and anyone who works there should be adequately trained and resourced to provide unlimited early learning opportunities.

Too often, early childhood teachers and educators are undervalued. Too often, they are underpaid, which leads to high staff turnover, placing undue pressure on teachers and educators. Play-based learning is foundational to early childhood education. Teachers and educators are skilled in deploying concepts that align with a child’s specific interests and view of the world. They deserve to be treated with professional respect and appropriate pay and working conditions.

Bridge to science

Not only will a high quality and universally accessible early learning system benefit teachers and educators, it will also benefit parents, and particularly mothers. Early teachers and educators are the bridge between parents and the science of early learning. They also allow parents to return to the workforce, safe in the knowledge their children are in a learning environment.

Reform is critical if we are to address the lifelong economic disadvantage faced by women in Australia. The current system provides a disincentive to full-time work for mothers. A better system would enhance workforce participation, creating an incredible economic advantage that would benefit all Australians, as well as addressing gender gaps across the workforce.

Early learning and care are unaffordable for too many Australians. Costs for early learning are rising at twice the inflation rate for all other goods and services, and faster than other costs of living, such as electricity. A system that saves household budgets hundreds of dollars a week will make a real difference. Better financial support for parents leads to a context more conducive to early learning and should lead to better conditions for teachers and educators.

Australia’s out-dated and expensive early learning system is failing children, teachers and educators, women, families, and the economy. It needs reform, now.

This is reform that is good for children, for teachers and educators, for families, and for the economy – all critical considerations in the design of our post-COVID economic and social recovery.

Top of the agenda

Early learning needs to be at the top of the agenda because the future of our children is the future of our country. It’s an issue that brings business, parents, teachers and educators and unions together – now it’s time for it to be a priority for both state and federal governments.

There’s still a lot of work to be done and the stronger the campaign gets, the louder its voice. Become a supporter and join the campaign today if you haven’t already by signing up www.thrivebyfive.org.au.