New data shows Federal and state governments fail to meet the mark on early childhood education and care
The release of new Productivity Commission data on early childhood education and care (ECEC) highlights multiple policy failures letting children and parents down, according to parent advocacy group The Parenthood.
“Escalating out of pocket costs of early education, an increase in regulatory breaches, falling pre-school enrolments and stagnant funding are all very troubling issues revealed in the new data,” The Parenthood Executive Director Georgie Dent said.
The percentage of children enrolled in preschool in the year before school has fallen three years in a row, from 92.4% in 2016 to 87.7% in 2019. In real terms, Federal Government funding for preschool has fallen over the past two years.
“The Federal government has been in a ‘holding pattern’ on preschool policy for years, with year by year extensions, and the results are starting to show,” Ms Dent said.
“While there has been a huge increase in Victorian spending on ECEC, WA, SA, Tas and NT spent less in 2020 than they did in 2019.
“The number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children enrolled in preschool continues to rise which is fantastic but sadly it doesn’t change the fact the Productivity Commission annual report released today confirms a very uncomfortable truth that the current early learning system is failing parents, families and children, including some of the most vulnerable in our society.
“The cost of child care has again risen across the country, up by $42 a week in just two years for full time care. The reality is that Australian families pay some of the highest out of pocket fees for early childhood education and care in the world and it’s a struggle.
“Yet the report also shows that children who did not attend early learning were twice as likely to start school developmentally vulnerable. If children start school behind, they tend to stay behind.
“Government assistance for early learning and care is lagging behind the actual cost of quality early learning and care services.
“The new data also shows the existing system beset with gross inequality, with too many of the most vulnerable children, including from economically disadvantaged or CALD backgrounds, missing out on early learning and the benefits it brings. This unequal start can entrench inequality and have lifetime impacts on learning and opportunity.
“Tinkering around the edges won’t deliver Australia the world-class, twenty-first century early learning system it deserves. Parents and children deserve a better deal.
“What parents and families need is urgent government support for universal access to quality early learning and care to help ease the financial burden for families, increase workplace participation by parents and provide children with the best start to life,” Ms Dent said.
Productivity Commission Report on Government Services available here: https://www.pc.gov.au/research/ongoing/report-on-government-services