Section 1 - General ECEC System
1.1 Moving Early Childhood Up the Agenda (2020) - [Referred to as the ‘Core Story’ Report]
Produced by CoLab, a partnership between the Minderoo Foundation and the Telethon Kids Institute. The Frameworks Institute (Washington DC based) was contracted to produce the Report.
The Report used communication science (intensive and extensive market research) to develop a narrative that better resonates with the public and policymakers with the goal of moving early childhood development up the policy agenda. It proposes a ‘new’ narrative based around the concepts of “Health and Fairness.” The Report outlines an in-depth exploration of a series of frames highlighting different aspects of these concepts.
The Report proposes the key narrative that supporting early development builds health and creates fairness for Australia’s children now and in the future. The goal of the ‘Core Story Project’ was to have many organisations and people use this new communications approach. This would increase the likelihood of moving early childhood up the national agenda.
1.2. Potential of 'stacking' early childhood interventions to reduce inequities in learning outcomes (2019) ‘Restacking the Odds’ Project
Authored Early childhood interventions are critical for reducing child health and development inequities. While most research focuses on the efficacy of single interventions, combining multiple evidence-based strategies over the early years of a child’s life may yield greater impact. This study examined the association between exposure to a combination of five evidence-based services from 0 to 5 years on children’s reading at 8-9 years.
The study found that the cumulative benefit effect of participation in more services and a cumulative risk effect when exposed to more risks was found. Each additional service that the child attended was associated with an increase in reading scores. Conversely, each additional risk that the child was exposed to was associated with a decrease in reading skills. Effects were similar for disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged children. This study supports the potential value of ‘stacking’ (having multiple) early interventions across the early years of a child’s life to maximise impacts on child outcomes.
1.3. State of Early Learning (2019 and 2017)
Second Report produced in 2019 by the Early Learning: Everyone Benefits campaign (led by Early Childhood Australia), in conjunction with the Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR) at the University of Queensland.
The State of Early Learning in Australia 2019 Report provides a comprehensive summary of the early learning sector (Early Childhood Education and Care, Preschool). The Report collects data mostly from Government Reports (e.g., ROGS, ACECQA) and reports on the key areas related to Access, Funding, Workforce, Provision, and Quality. Data is mostly presented for Australia and for each state and territory. The Report nominates national goals and performance indicators to help track progress in the future; and a simple scorecard for each state and territory reporting on one aspect that is positive and negative (tick and cross).
1.4. Lifting Our Game (2017)
The Report’s official title is ‘Report of the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools through Early Childhood Interventions’. It was asked to consider, and make recommendations on, the most effective interventions to be deployed in early childhood, with a focus on school readiness, improving achievement in schools and future success in employment or further education. The Review found that quality early childhood education makes a significant contribution to achieving educational excellence in schools; There is growing evidence that participation in quality early childhood education improves school readiness and lifts NAPLAN results and PISA scores. It stated that quality early childhood education and care is best considered as an investment, not a cost. The Reports recommendations included:
- Embedding foundations for future reform and improved education and life outcomes through a commitment to ongoing, adequate funding of Universal Access in the year before school.
- Progressively expanding access to quality early childhood education, for example preschool, for all three-year-olds
- Targeting additional support for some children and families to promote access, equity, and inclusion
- Focussing on quality improvement and workforce issues.
Note: The Report was produced at a time when long-term national funding arrangements for early childhood education were uncertain (e.g., 4-Year UANP)
1.5 Child Care and Early Learning (2015)
The Australian Government asked the Productivity Commission to undertake a public inquiry into future options for childcare and early childhood learning, with a focus on developing a system that supports workforce participation and addresses children’s learning and development needs.
Key Findings Included:
- Formal and informal Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services play a vital role in the development of Australian children and their preparation for school, and in enabling parents to work.
- The number of formal ECEC services has expanded substantially over the past decade. Over the same period, Australian Government funding has almost tripled to around $7 billion per year, and now covers two thirds of total ECEC costs. Despite this, many parents report difficulties in finding ECEC at a location, price, quality, and hours that they want.
- Current ECEC arrangements are complex and costly to administer and difficult for parents and providers to navigate. There are over 20 Australian Government assistance programs, some poorly targeted. Assessing service quality is cumbersome and time consuming.
- he benefits from participation in preschool for children’s development and transition to school are largely undisputed. There also appear to be benefits from early identification of, and intervention for, children with development vulnerabilities.
- The National Quality Framework must be retained, modified, and extended to all Government funded ECEC services.
- The Commission’s recommended reforms will achieve, at minimal additional cost, an ECEC system that is simpler, more accessible, and flexible, with greater early learning opportunities for children with additional needs. Assistance should focus on three priority areas:
- mainstream support through a single child-based subsidy that is: means- and activity- tested, paid directly to the family’s choice of approved services,
- support the inclusion of children with additional needs in mainstream services, delivery of services for children in highly disadvantaged communities and the integration of ECEC with schools and other child and family services.
- Approved preschool programs funded on a per child basis, for all children, regardless of whether they are dedicated preschools or part of a long day care centre.
Note: The Productivity Commission’s recommended model for ECEC received mixed reviews from stakeholders and was never fully implemented.
1.6. National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Early Childhood Strategy (Current)
SNAICC is developing a strategy that will align with the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and their community-controlled services to lead the responses to children’s needs. It will address outcomes across all aspects of young children’s lives, including early learning, health, disability, wellbeing, care, and development. To date (July 2021) it has provided a Framework to inform the development of a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Early Education Strategy. This Framework identifies five goals/priority areas for consultation:
· Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are born and remain healthy and strong.
· Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are supported to thrive in their early years.
· Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are supported to establish and maintain strong connections to culture, country, and language
· Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children grow up in safe nurturing homes, supported by strong families and communities
· Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities are active partners in building a better service system