April 11th, 2023

Inequities persist across Australia’s early childhood education and care system: OECD report.



11 April 2023 – A new report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), found that targeted measures, including boosted funding, are needed to address the growing inequities within Australia’s early childhood education and care (ECEC) system [1].

The report highlighted that high costs of ECEC act as a major barrier to access and further exacerbate existing societal inequities, with widening gaps in early learning access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children [1].

These findings from the OECD reinforce Thrive by Five’s long-standing call for universally accessible and affordable, quality early learning for every Australian child.

The report also found that as a direct result of these challenges, the rates of participation in formal early learning in Australia are much lower than some other OECD countries, and even below the OECD averages. About 82% of children aged 3-5 attended formal early learning and care in Australia in 2020, compared to the OECD average of 87% [1].

Thrive by Five’s Director Jay Weatherill said that the findings of the report underscored the urgent need for bold reforms to Australia’s early learning and care system.

“This report, much like many others in the past, shows that bold and urgent measures need to be taken to make Australia’s early learning and care system truly equitable and accessible for all,” Mr Weatherill said.

“Our current policies are leaving behind far too many families and children and are only widening existing gaps in access to care.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children continue to be underrepresented in our nation’s early learning and care system, as do children from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

“It is clearly time to turn vision and words into greater action.  The upcoming Federal Budget is a prime opportunity for reform. Thrive by Five is calling for bold and necessary reforms to our nation’s ECEC system, to address the current challenges with the urgency they deserve,” he said.

Thrive by Five is calling for key early learning reforms in the Federal Budget including:

1) Abolishing the Activity Test requirements for all families

2) Reinstate funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led & operated early learning centres

3) Introduce free three-year preschool across all states and territories

4) Fund an immediate pay rise for all early learning educators

5) Invest in expanding early learning and care services in regional and remote Australia.

“Making access to early childhood education and care easier and investing in the future of Australia’s children is in all of our best interests and the Federal Government must use the upcoming budget as an opportunity to take the bold steps necessary to improve early learning access across the country,” Mr Weatherill said.