A quarter of preschoolers attend for free

Almost nine out of 10 four year olds and two in 10 five year olds were enrolled in a preschool program in 2016, according to a report published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

ABS spokesperson Michelle Marquardt said across the nation in 2016, there were 344,676 children aged four or five years enrolled in a preschool program (also known as an early childhood education program).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children made up 5% (16,598) of this total.

“Of the children enrolled in a preschool program in 2016, 43% were enrolled in preschools and 51% in long day care (LDC) centres,” Michelle said.

“Service delivery models vary between states and territories and this is reflected in the data. For instance, in Queensland and NSW there were more children enrolled in LDCs than preschools (71% and 65% respectively), meanwhile in Western Australia 80% of children were enrolled in preschools.”

The attendance rate for enrolled children aged four or five years was 96% nationally, with the highest rates of attendance in South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory (98%).

Marquardt said almost a quarter of all children enrolled were in preschool programs that were fee free in 2016, while over half were enrolled in programs with low out of pocket costs (between $1 to $4 per hour). The majority of children enrolled in a preschool program in South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory were in fee free places.

Green grants

Applications are now open to NSW/ACT IEU members for this year’s Teachers Mutual Bank Environment Grants.

Members in early childhood centres are invited to apply for one of five environment grants of $3000 each, sponsored by Teachers Mutual Bank.

Typical projects could include habitat conservation, biodiversity, vegetable and kitchen gardens, water and energy saving, tree planting, recycling, waste, composting and Aboriginal cultural projects.

A previous winner, Goodstart Early Learning Centre, Goulburn turned an unloved patch of ground into gardens for each room at the centre.

Applications close 19 July. For application forms and further information contact Betty Tan at betty@ieu.asn.au.

Win for C&K staff

The collective strength and action of Queensland members in C&K Branch centres, supported by their colleagues and community, have protected staff from shameful cuts to current conditions.

As a result of the member Cut the Cuts! Campaign, C&K’s proposed cuts to employees’ superannuation co-contributions, redundancy payments and vacation time have been stopped.

C&K’s change in position was confirmed at a negotiation meeting earlier this year at which C&K also agreed to offer 10 hours per annum of release time for directors available by application.

IEUA-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke commended C&K for its preparedness to improve its negotiating positions.

“This outcome has only been achieved because of the strength of the collective action adopted by members.

“Members are to be commended for their resolute claim to protect working conditions which reflect the standards generally applicable in other Queensland education sectors.

“The release time offered is a welcome move away from the previous outright rejection of the need for any time.

“While 10 hours is not a significant figure, it is a start which recognises the role of directors,” Terry said.

A formal joint review of the operation of the provisions will occur in 2018.

The superannuation co-contribution scheme has also been protected and will remain available to all employees, both existing and new.

The proposed agreement also clarifies that attendance at employer initiated or sponsored events during vacation time (defined as ‘recess leave’ in the agreement) is at the employee’s discretion.

Universal Access funding must be permanent not piecemeal

Ahead of the May Budget, Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham announced another year of Universal Access funding for kindergartens and preschools for 2018 – further perpetuating the government’s piecemeal approach to supporting the early childhood education sector.

IEUA-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke said the Federal Government’s announcement fell far short of the permanent, ongoing funding required for the future of the sector and its students.

“The ability for every Australian child to access 15 hours per week of early childhood education is not only vital for their future but for the future of our nation as a whole.

“That the Federal Government has not taken the opportunity to provide the certainty of funding the sector needs is very disappointing.

“Access to quality early childhood education is a major factor in our country’s future, with its importance as a driver for immediate and long term economic development recognised by the Productivity Commission in October 2014,” Terry said.

He said the announcement meant IEUA-QNT members would continue their Fund Our Future campaign launched earlier this year, calling on the Federal Government to get serious about funding early childhood education in this country.

“The funding needs to be ongoing and at a level that facilitates professional rates and conditions for employees of kindergartens and preschools in order to ensure a quality education for all students.

“It’s time for the Federal Government to provide certainty for the early childhood education sector and to permanently invest in our next generation of Australians – giving students the best possible start when it comes to learning and life.”

Members can sign the online petition at www.megaphone.org.au/petitions/fund-our-future and find out more about the campaign at www.fundourfuture.net.au

Early Start

The University of Wollongong welcomes practitioners, policy makers and academics to its biennial Early Start conference on 27-29 September.

The 2017 conference Helping Children Flourish and Realise Their Potential: Translating Research for Policy, Practice and Community, will bring together academics, policy makers and practitioners from across discipline boundaries to cultivate best practice and innovation and ultimately aim to improve early childhood education and practice.

A range of high profile national and international speakers will contribute to the conference including Andreas Schleicher (Director for the Directorate of Education, OECD), Steven Barnett (Rutgers University), Sally Peters (University of Waikato) and Paul Leseman (Utrecht University) amongst others.

University of Wollongong’s Academic Director of the Early Years program, Dr Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett, said that “the conference provides great opportunity for early childhood education and care practitioners to enhance their knowledge in an interdisciplinary environment. The conference provides quality professional development for all early childhood educators and may assist early childhood teachers with meeting the newly implemented NESA accreditation requirements”.

For further information about the 2017 Early Start conference, please go to www.earlystart.uow.edu.au/conference