By Prof Susan Pascoe AM Election
Every child deserves the best possible start in life, no matter what their family earns or where they live. And yet, in a country as wealthy as Australia, income and location do make a difference to the strength of a child’s foundation for success.
Thankfully, we know which children are most likely to face challenges and what causes them. This means we know exactly what solutions can be implemented now to deliver the most important and consequential reforms ever seen in the Australian education and care sector.
We know children in rural and regional areas, and children from poor or disadvantaged households are more likely to start school behind their more advantaged city counterparts. Half of them never catch up, and head into adulthood with fewer options.
We know families struggle to access the right care for their children because of significant government under investment in education and care services.
In addition, we know the education and care sector is facing a major workforce crisis. Low average pay and conditions, huge staff turnover and uneven access to quality training mean services struggle to find the quality staff needed by children and families.
The missed opportunities have immediate and generational impacts.
That’s why the 2022 Federal Election is a time for Australian families to demand action. It is a time for politicians to commit to action!
Pledges to hold reviews, taskforces and inquiries are not needed. We have piles of credible research and reports. Further, peak bodies have built and released a plan that acts as a blueprint for government action.
Community Child Care Association, Community Early Learning Australia and Early Learning Association Australia have joined forces to build this plan. It guarantees access to high quality education and care, delivered by a dedicated, qualified and fairly paid workforce.
In the 2022 Federal Election campaign, we are calling for bipartisan support for a plan that delivers:
1. two days a week of funded early education and care for all children from birth to school
2. a commitment to the inclusion of all children
3. mandatory National Quality Standard assessments and ratings at least every three years
4. the creation of a national industrial instrument for the education and care sector to provide educators with fairer levels of pay
5. a National Children’s Education & Care Workforce Strategy
6. properly funded infrastructure and sector support.
This plan ensures children are better prepared to start school, ready to learn from day one and less likely to fall behind. It’s a plan that ensures children will develop the crucial underpinning cognitive, social and emotional skills that provide lifelong benefits.
The benefits of this plan extend to parents and carers as their ability to take on paid work will be dramatically improved, especially for women. This boosts the economy by lifting workforce participation, productivity and tax revenue. The massive pressure on families trying to balance carer responsibilities with increasing costs of living will also be alleviated.
For the benefits to children and family to be realised, the education and care sector must be seen as an attractive career path with fair compensation. Better skills, wages and conditions will transform the sector from a ‘job’ into a rewarding career.
The education and care sector demands urgent attention from all parties and candidates to ensure Australia’s children get a great start in life. Their future, as well as their families and prospects of future generations depend on it.