The federal election is just around the corner. What are the major parties offering for early education and care?
Early in April I attended a pre-election forum which was facilitated by Community Early Learning Australia, Community Childcare Co-operative (Victoria) and Early Learning Association Australia.
Speakers included acting Minister for Education Stuart Robert (Liberal); Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Development Amanda Rishworth (Labor) and Senator Mehreen Faruqi (Greens).
As part of the advocacy work leading up to the election, the three peak bodies named above collaborated on a six-point plan to strengthen the early childhood education and care sector:
- two days a week of funded early education and care for all children from birth to school
- a commitment to the inclusion of all children
- mandatory National Quality Standard assessments and ratings at least every three years
- creation of a national industrial instrument for the education and care sector to provide educators with fairer levels of pay
- a national children’s education and care workforce strategy
- properly funded infrastructure and sector support.
Participants had the opportunity to complete polls ranking what they considered the most important issues. High on the list were staff shortages and pay rates.
We all need to look carefully at each party’s policies before the election and decide what we think is best – not only for children and families but for us, the early childhood teachers. So, what did the politicians have to say?
Acting Education Minister Stuart Robert sent an apology and a statement about the Liberals' past achievements in early childhood.
There was little about the future should his government be re-elected, apart from reducing fees for middle-income and low-income families who have more than one child in early childhood education, and boosting the number of educators through the job trainer program and apprenticeship schemes.
There was nothing for early childhood teachers.
Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Care Amanda Rishworth said Labor will:
- lift the maximum childcare subsidy rate to 90 per cent for families for the first child in care
- increase childcare subsidy rates for every family that has one child in care and the family earns less than $530,000 in household income
- keep higher childcare subsidy rates for the second and additional children in care
- extend the increased subsidy to outside school hours care.
Rishworth also said Labor would make funded preschool programs available for three-year-olds so all children would receive two years of early childhood education before starting school. But there was nothing about teachers and educators.
Senator Mehreen Faruqi said all children aged 0-5 should receive an early childhood education. The Greens aim to make all early childhood services not-for-profit and phase out all for-profit services.
The Greens also recognise that increased pay rates and improved working conditions for teachers and educators are vital. They state that free TAFE and university places for teachers and educators should be offered to those thinking of a career in the sector.