After a long few weeks the Productivity Commission hearings into the Early Childhood Education and Care sector have finally come to an end.
The hearings into ECEC are looking at ways to make the sector more affordable and accessible whilst still retaining quality.
United Voice presented a national submission in Melbourne, while WA member Sally attended the Perth hearing and also had an opinion piece published in ‘The West Australian’ newspaper.
Sally made a number of important points in her opinion piece.
On why the industry is referred to as ‘Early Childhood Care and Education’ rather than just ‘childcare’:
“Rather than being supervised and cared for in big groups by often overworked childcare workers, children in kindergarten and long day care can participate in creative early learning programs, tailored to their individual needs, by professional, qualified educators.”
On why quality, trained educators are best:
“Quality early childhood education and care has proven benefits for children, their families and the community. For families there is the benefit of letting parents re-enter the workforce knowing their children are well cared for. The flow- on effects to the economy are significant. A 2009 British study found that for every 1 pound paid to an early childhood educator, there is a 7.20 pound return from parents’ ability to work.”
On how quality is determined:
“Quality is determined by a number of factors but professional, qualified educators and appropriate educator-to-child ratios are at the heart of quality early learning.
State and Federal governments and the childcare sector have undertaken a huge amount of work to develop a National Quality Framework for early learning and care. The framework has delivered nationally consistent standards for qualifications, educator-to-child ratios and focus on play-based learning through an early learning framework.”
Why 180 educators leave the sector each week:
“Despite their qualifications, the importance of their work and their key responsibility for children’s wellbeing, many educators could earn more working in a supermarket. The sector struggles to attract and retain professional staff because educators simply can’t afford to stay.’
Why watering down the quality of care and early learning in order to cut costs is a big mistake:
“This would be an incredibly short-sighted move. Our children are our greatest resource. We will all benefit if we give them the best possible start in life and collectively invest in this essential public good.”
United Voice members working in ECEC were represented at the Melbourne hearing by National Acting Secretary David O’Byrne and educators Kristy Wilkie and Claire Penno.
They told the Commission that professional, qualified educators, strong ratios and a well- funded sector are crucial for children as well as the economy.
“Australia risks creating a third rate early childhood system. Families will not trust a system that abandons higher training standards for educators and strong educator- child ratios,” Mr O’Byrne said.
“Quality early education sets children up for a lifetime of learning. Remove that and you cheat children of the best possible start in life.
“In the past few years we’ve made big steps towards a first rate system for children. Let’s not sell out our children’s future just to save a few dollars.
“If parents- especially mothers- can’t find care they can trust then they won’t go back to work. That’s the big issue the Commission has to confront.”
The Productivity Commission hearings will assist the commission to finish their final report, set to be release on the 31st of October.
Members are strongly encourage to go to the Productivity Commission website and share your stories and tell the commission why quality matters.