Call for two years of universal preschool

Thrive by Five has backed unions’ call for National Cabinet to prioritise investment in two years of preschool for all Australian children.

“This is an important message for the nation’s leaders from Australia’s public teachers, principals and education support staff,” Thrive by Five CEO Jay Weatherill said.

“The evidence is overwhelming. Two years of high-quality, play based learning at preschool in the years before children start school helps give children a jump start into their education.

“The Federal Government made that commitment for four-year-olds in the May Budget and we have already seen leadership from some states and territories to make preschool available for three-year-olds as well.

“Now it’s time to make this a priority for the National Cabinet, so that all children in every state and territory can benefit.”

Thrive by Five is also calling for investment in two years of preschool as part of a five-point plan for early learning reform for National Cabinet, including:

  • a new federal-state agreement to deliver universal three-year-old preschool across the country to match the agreement in place for four-year-old preschool
  • lifting the childcare subsidy to 95 percent for all childrenand set agreed fee caps
  • making the childcare subsidy available to all children regardless of the service type and the income or work status of their parents
  • workforce planning for a universal system and fund appropriate pay and conditions for teachers and educators to end the problem of skill shortages, high vacancy rates and high staff turnover rates across the sector.

To achieve these outcomes, we ask that early education and childcare become a part of the National Cabinet reform agenda to deal with complexities of the system and build a true national universal system.

Conference postponed

The IEUA NSW/ACT Early Childhood Conference, which was planned for 7 August, has been cancelled with a heavy heart due to the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown in Sydney. Anyone who booked for the conference should have received their refund by now. However, it is hoped the conference can be revived in 2022, with many of the same presenters attending. Watch this space!

Closing the gap

The Federal Government will invest $120 million to improve the lives of thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children through better access to quality early childhood education. The package includes:

  • $81.8 million to expand the Connected Beginnings program in 27 new sites, helping to ensure an additional 8550 children are safe, healthy, and ready to start school by the age of five
  • $29.8 million to expand the Community Child Care Fund Restricted Program and fund up to 20 additional mostly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-run services in remote communities, benefitting around 3500 children
  • $9 million to expand the Early Years Education Program to create four new replication sites in Queensland and Victoria, to connect highly disadvantaged children with early childhood services and targeted health, nutritionand mental health services
  • $1.9 million to trial a new early learning teaching model to strengthen literacy and numeracy through explicit instruction, with a focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in two early learning centres.

Great start

A Great Start to Kindy is a new pilot program being rolled out across select Queensland kindergartens in rural and remote areas.

It will provide three-year-olds from identified groups with a supportive pre-kindy program in the year before they begin kindergarten.

Participating children will have free or low cost access to inclusive, flexible and family-centred early learning programs, run by qualified early childhood education teachers.

A Great Start to Kindergarten aims to enhance children’s learning, development and wellbeing while strengthening the confidence and capability of families to support their children to successfully transition to an approved kindergarten program.

IEU-QNT Senior Industrial Officer John Spriggs said our union strongly supports the provision of quality early childhood education for three-year-olds, something we have repeatedly called for as part of the ongoing Fund Our Future campaign.

“The new pilot program A Great Start to Kindergarten is a positive step, although we believe Universal Access funding should be permanently extended and broadened to include all three-year-olds,” John said.

“For this program to be successful, it must be appropriately funded and resourced with consideration for the practical demands on staff and kindergartens to facilitate the program,” he said.

Queensland ‘Taken to Teach’ expiring December

IEU-QNT members should be aware that several workforce transitional provisions are expiring at the end of this year, particularly Regulation 242: Persons taken to be early childhood teachers (ECTs) – Recognises a person who is actively working towards their ECT qualification as an ECT, commonly referred to as ‘Taken to Teach’.

Once this regulation expires an employee will need to have completed their early childhood teacher (ECT) qualification to be considered a qualified ECT.

The Queensland Department of Education has advised that services need to ensure they are compliant from1 January 2022.

Members can check whether their qualifications are part of the National Quality Framework NQF approved list via the ACECQA website: bit.ly/2VLpojr

More information about the transitional arrangements including Frequently Asked Questions can be found here: bit.ly/3xEch0K

Regulation 242 does not apply in Victoria or if you are working in a centre-based service educating and caring for 30 or more children preschool age or under in NSW.

It is also scheduled to expire in the ACT, NSW, Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia on 31 December 2023.