Early childhood sector seeks commitment from NSW government

IEU joins with more than 20 other early childhood stakeholders in writing a letter to the Gladys Berjiklian NSW State Government, calling for a meeting and formal response to their requests and concerns regarding early childhood funding and services. Find the letter, to which IEU was a signatory, below:

Dear Premier

In this important election year, the NSW early childhood education and care sector has come together to call upon the next NSW Government to make a firm commitment to affordable, high quality early learning for our youngest learners. There is resounding Australian and international evidence that access to quality early learning provides a solid foundation for children’s brain development and success in school and provides life-long education, health and wellbeing outcomes. The December 2018 COAG meeting acknowledged this evidence by agreeing to the Early Learning Reform Principles. The meeting recognised ‘the importance of the early years of life, and the significant contribution that high quality early learning makes to life long educational achievement, productivity, wellbeing and success’ with all jurisdictions committing to ‘continue improving outcomes for children and families’.

The NSW early childhood education and care sector has national significance in the delivery of these principles, representing more than 3,000 long day and 800 preschool services, attended by 290,000 children from 220,000 families and employing more than 40,000 teachers and educators.

We write to seek a meeting and to receive your written response to our collective priority requests and strategies:

All NSW children have access to affordable, high quality early learning for at least two days per week, for the two years before formal schooling, delivered in long day and preschool settings.

Secure and adequate long-term funding for four-year-old children in the year before school to access at least two days of an affordable, quality preschool program delivered in long day and preschool settings.

Extension of universal access funding for two years before school to ensure all three - year-old children have access to at least two days of an affordable, quality preschool program delivered in long day and preschool settings.

Adequate universal access funding to enable delivery of a quality preschool program in long day and preschool settings.

Address barriers of access to quality preschool programs (both cost and non-cost) to increase participation for children experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage.

Ensure that the delivery of universal access to preschool programs is developed in close consultation with the sector and supported by a needs-based infrastructure program, sufficient preschool program places and sufficient supply of qualified teachers and educators.

NSW children experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage are able to fully participate in early learning and receive the support that they need.

Consistent fee subsidies for Health Concession Card and other equity families to attend preschool programs in long day care and preschool settings.

Needs-based funding to support children to achieve the most out of their early learning opportunity similar to the new Victorian School Readiness funding.

Funding for specific initiatives to encourage children to attend preschool programs such as community outreach workers, buses and alternative models of delivery in disadvantaged areas with low participation in early learning.

Negotiation with the Federal Government to enable the NSW Government to be a third-party payer of fees for children at risk and children in out of home care to access early learning.

Engagement with NDIA, schools and early learning providers to support children with disabilities or developmental delays to overcome barriers for them to access early intervention and for educators to access capacity building funding from allied health providers.

Develop, implement and evaluate a strategic vision and action plan to implement a ten year NSW Early Childhood Education Workforce Strategy (2019-2029) that builds a quality, well remunerated and professionally recognised early years workforce.

Work through COAG to develop a complementary national workforce strategy ensuring Federal, State and Territory government commit to appropriate funding to achieve the agreed strategic plan.

Implement a professional development fund that all teachers and educators can access to raise quality education across long day and preschool services, enabling improved developmental outcomes for all children.

Develop specific policy initiatives to increase the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce and provide additional professional development for existing Indigenous teachers and educators to ensure culturally rich early learning services are available for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Support moves to National Teacher Accreditation / Registration ensuring early childhood teaching degree qualifications and experience are recognised regardless of workplace setting or the age of children they work with. Enable, in collaboration with the sector and ACECQA, teaching standards appropriate for and applied to all teachers (early childhood, primary, secondary).

Continued partnership support for the National Quality Framework.

Provide ongoing support for the implementation of the National Quality Framework and ensure adequate funding for implementation and administration, whether through a renewed national partnership or out of the NSW budget, to maintain quality standards in early childhood education as it already does for school education (NESA).

Work in partnership with the sector to improve quality program delivery in early childhood education.

Develop performance benchmarks for regular assessment and ratings of services on a consistent, well-defined and transparent risk basis and ensure adequate funding is provided for this to occur.6

Investing in ongoing research on the impact of early learning to inform both policy and practice.

Lift investment in early learning, along with other levels of Government, so that Australia matches the performance of leading OECD countries investing at least 1 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in early childhood education.

We are a representative group of 25 early childhood education and care peak bodies, unions, providers, academics and local government. We look forward to meeting with you at your earliest convenience to discuss our priorities detailed in this letter and receiving your written response ahead of the election to allow it to be communicated widely to families and educators.

See https://www.ieu.asn.au/news-publications/news/2018/01-6/early-childhood-sector-seek-commitment-nsw-government for all signatories’ names.