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Support for Universal Early Childhood Education and Care System

The Centre has welcomed the release of the Centre for Policy Development’s report, Growing Together, which emphasises the need for a universal Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) system.  

There is significant momentum in the early years space currently, with the Federal Government recently announcing the first National Early Years Strategy, preschool reforms underway across multiple states and expert reviews on the future of ECEC have been tabled. Despite existing strengths, there is consensus that quality ECEC services do not reach all children who need the services, and those who have the most to gain from accessing the services are less likely to attend. 

Equitable Access to Early Childhood Education

Last year, 22% of Australian children started primary school developmentally vulnerable, and approximately 126,000 children missed out on the benefits of ECEC due to stringent activity test requirements. The report makes several recommendations to reform the ECEC system, making it more equitable and accessible, one of which is legislating an entitlement for all children to access at least three days of ECEC per week, either free or at a low cost.  

One set fee, or free access for those in need, would reduce system complexity, which is a significant barrier to families accessing ECEC, especially for First Nations families, culturally and linguistically diverse and under-supported families. This funding model would cut the current ties between the tax system and ECEC. This simpler, universal system is easier to navigate, reduces stigma, and lessens the potential for families to have negative experiences across ECEC and Centrelink.  

The evidence is clear – access to high-quality ECEC improves children’s life chances. The opportunity to create a more equitable and accessible system should not be missed. 

At the Centre, we envision a world in which where every child, regardless of postcode, family circumstances, or cultural background, enters school ready to grow and thrive. The Centre’s early years program, Early Start, Bright Future, supports professionals in connecting families with children aged 0-8 years to suitable early years services, focusing on access to two years of kindergarten before formal schooling begins and highlighting the importance of understanding trauma when engaging with families. 

Read the Centre’s submission to the Productivity Commission regarding ECEC, here.

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