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E A R LY C H I L D H O O D

A new report on the quality of early childhood education adds weight to the case for more and longer-term funding. By K AT E O ’ H A L LO R A N

Quality and inequality

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any early childhood education services are falling short of expected standards, and disadvantaged children, such as those from lower socioeconomic families, are less likely to have access to high-quality services, according to a new report by the Mitchell Institute. The institute, at Victoria University in Melbourne, analysed each of the standards in the National Quality Framework, which was established in 2012 to improve education and care in long day care, preschool/kindergarten and outside school hours care services. In the resulting report, Quality is Key in Early Childhood Education in Australia, the institute says quality area one ‘educational program and practice’, the area most strongly associated with effective education, is also the area with “the highest proportion of services not meeting the minimum benchmark”. Furthermore, on average, it is the services in the most disadvantaged areas that are least likely to exceed expected standards. This highlights a fundamental flaw in the early childhood education system and policy, says report co-author Dr Dan Cloney, a research fellow at the Australian Council for Educational Research. “If you live in a less affluent neighbourhood, or come from a less affluent background, then you are more likely to get access to lower-quality services,” says Cloney. “If you buy into the quality agenda being about reducing inequality and gaps, then the current system isn’t necessarily set up to achieve that.” The flaws with existing policy are numerous, but one key problem is that

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the Turnbull government ­– as with the Abbott government before it – has failed to fund the Universal Access to Early Childhood Education program for the long term. Instead, it has provided just 12 months of funding at a time. AEU federal president Correna Haythorpe says continual uncertainty over funding means that centres are unable to plan for the long term and see through quality improvement. “A year-by-year allocation creates a lot of uncertainty for people, for both parents and staff working in early childhood education centres,” says Haythorpe. “It decreases their capacity to undertake long-term planning and make long-term decisions. “It’s incredibly disrespectful of the government to treat the early childhood education sector this way. Early childhood education provides the

foundation for everything for our kids, and yet every year we have to campaign for this funding.”

Targeted help The report’s findings demonstrate that staff working in disadvantaged communities need help to achieve quality expectations, says Haythorpe. “We know that it’s much more difficult for education staff working in disadvantaged communities to access high-quality professional development. “One of the issues raised by AEU members about the quality standards was the need for ongoing professional development so people can understand what is required and implement it in their teaching and working.” Cloney agrees, arguing that the disproportionate difficulties faced by centres and staff in disadvantaged areas

Profile for Australian Education Union

Educator autumn 2018  

http://www.aeufederal.org.au/application/files/3015/2020/5387/Educator_Autumn_2018.pdf

Educator autumn 2018  

http://www.aeufederal.org.au/application/files/3015/2020/5387/Educator_Autumn_2018.pdf

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