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How do we achieve universal, high quality early childhood education?


How do we achieve universal, high quality early childhood education? Michaela Kronemann Australian Education Union Kaleidoscope: Changing Images of Childhood, – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: How do we achieve universal, high quality early childhood education?

How do we achieve universal, high quality early
childhood education?
Michaela Kronemann Australian Education Union
Kaleidoscope Changing Images of Childhood, ECA
Biennial Conference, 28 September 1 October
2005, Brisbane
Why does a qualified kindergarten teacher from
Victoria become a flight attendant?
Who is the AEU?
The Australian Education Union represents 165,000
teachers and education workers in public
education, from preschools to schools to TAFE
institutes, across Australia.
  • Early childhood education is a key AEU priority
  • 1998 AEU discussion paper Towards a National
    Plan for preschool education
  • National Early Childhood Committee of ece
  • ongoing consultations, roundtables, policy
  • 2004 Independent National Inquiry into preschool
  • AEU position
  • universal and equitable access to at least one
    year of free, high quality preschool
    education, to be extended to two years.
  • national plan needed.
  • Commonwealth government has a role to play.
  • Early childhood education is a vital part of the
    education continuum.

And now?
  • Some definitions
  • Where we are up to now
  • Some of the challenges we face in achieving ece
    as a universal right
  • The (too gentle??) winds of change
  • Issues to address
  • Some next steps

Some definitions
  • Ideally, early childhood development programs
    and the school system should be part of a
    continuum for children that extends from the
    early years through to adulthood. The brain
    develops in a seamless manner and what happens in
    the first years sets the base for later learning
    in the education system.

Early childhood education encompasses 0-8
years. Prime focus today on 3-5 year olds.
  • (McCain and Mustard 1999, Reversing the Real
    Brain Drain early years Study Final Report )

Defining preschool education
  • Complexity of structures and provision in
  • Preschool is a planned educational program for
    children in the year before the first year of
    school. Children are usually aged between 4 - 5
    years of age. A qualified early childhood
    teacher, who has completed a degree in education,
    plans the program and is usually supported by a
    teacher assistant. (Walker 2004)

OECD 2001 ECEC at the crossroads?
  • There is much talk about a rethink of the
    framework (and some action).
  • Need shared values or vision of children and
    childhood in Australia.
  • Need strategies to bridge the divides, to
    overcome fragmentation.
  • Whether this can occur without some radical
    restructuring between State and Commonwealth
    jurisdictions is debatableThere is a clear
    leadership role for the Commonwealth Government
    in forging such a strategy across jurisdictions,
    and for ECEC sector communities to work
    collaboratively to achieve more effective
    coordination across the education and care
  • Also pay, conditions and qualifications
    inclusion policies curriculum development
    balancing work-family resourcing/quality/access

Where we are now funding
  • Average country expenditure for 3-4 y.o. is 0.5
    of GDP.
  • Australia spends 0.1 of GDP.

Australia is the lowest spending of 24
Commonwealth funding abolished in 1985.
OECD, Education at a Glance 2005
Where we are now structures of preschool
  • Staffed and funded by Education Departments and
  • integrated with schools in NT, Qld, Tasmania
    and WA.
  • co-located with schools/stand alone mix in ACT
  • a mix of stand alone and integrated models in SA.
  • Community Services focus in NSW and Victoria.
    Community, private, local government providers,
    with a small number integrated with government

Education departments also responsible for child
care in SA, Tasmania and ACT. New links emerging
between education and childcare and health in
some systems.
Participation in preschool education
  • 260,100 4 year olds in Australia in 2004
  • 83.7 of 4 year olds in preschool in year before
  • around 17.1 of all 3 year olds attend preschool.

More than 40,000 children are missing out
Independent national inquiry major findings
  • From a national perspective, this inquiry found
    that preschool education is characterised by
    fragmentation, varying degrees of quality, no
    equitable access, and without a national vision,
    commitment or consistent approach. The number of
    different approaches, funding formulas,
    terminology, child ratios, curriculum, costs and
    delivery hours and models promote inequity across
    Australia for young children in their preschool
    year. p10

Kathy Walker, Independent Inquirer, 2004
  • I cant help feeling like it really is just the
    luck of the draw as to whether or not you receive
    a preschool education. It seems to depend upon
    where you live in Australia and not that you are
    Australian that provides you with equitable
    access to a free quality preschool education.

(School Principal)
Key findings
  • Children most likely to not have equal access
  • Indigenous children
  • Children living in poverty and or Low SES
  • Children from Culturally and Linguistically
    Diverse Backgrounds
  • Children with special needs
  • (Walker 2004)

Major findings
  • Significant barriers exist in Australia
  • that prevent equity of access.
  • Lack of a national vision and commitment to
    preschool education is viewed as a major barrier
    to access of high quality preschool.
  • Walker 2004

Barriers to equity and access
  • Geographic location- particularly rural and
  • Inadequate transport
  • Costs to parents - particularly in NSW and Vic.
  • Lack of qualified early childhood teachers in
    some areas
  • Lack of adequate funding, resources and supports
    for children with special needs
  • Significant differences in government funding
    levels and models contribute to unequal

  • Differences in age of entry and terminology cause
    confusion and inequity
  • Lack of links between services adds complexity
    and difficulty for families in understanding what
    and how to access
  • Different government department responsibilities
    create gaps in curriculum continuity and
    transition challenges.
  • Walker 2004

  • A national plan for preschool education be
    developed between the Commonwealth and states and
    territories to ensure equity and access to high
    quality preschool.
  • A national framework and vision is coordinated
    through MCEETYA and DEST.
  • Walker 2004

  • The provision of high quality and accessible
    preschool education is free for all children
    across Australia and is acknowledged at a federal
    level as a universal right.
  • The Commonwealth reintroduce dedicated funding
    for preschool education and that Commonwealth and
    state and territory governments jointly provide
    the full costs of preschool education.

  • The Commonwealth and state and territory
    governments give priority to ensuring access to
    high quality preschool education for Indigenous
    children across the country.
  • The Commonwealth, and state and territory
    governments provide a significant and immediate
    increase in funding to provide adequate supports
    and resources for children with special needs.

  • Preschools and child care centres across
    Australia come under the jurisdiction of the
    Departments of Education in each state and
    territory and provide continuity for children and
    families between child care, preschool and the
    first year of school.
  • Walker 2004

The (gentle?) winds of change
  • The National Agenda for Early Childhood
  • Improved national coherence of the early learning
    and care system
  • Improved access and participation for all,
    particularly disadvantaged children and children
    with disabilities.
  • Agreed national goals and access for all seen as
    long term aspirations.
  • Cross portfolio perspective, but driven by FACS.
  • No change to the traditional areas of government
  • Currently under discussion with states.

Changes at the system level
  • Moves to greater integration of services.
  • Efforts to develop cross-portfolio approaches.
  • Widespread efforts to improve participation.
  • Changes reflect local history and culture and
    resourcing policies of governments.
  • Three broad models care focussed education
    - focussed and a more holistic model for
    education and care.

NSW and Victoria care-focussed model
  • Preschool and school education in separate
    departments. Low funding for childrens services.
  • Best Start/First Start programs to try and bring
    services together.
  • Victorian commitment to childrens hubs
    preschool, child care, other programs in DHS.
    Funding for LDC will increase. Proposal to make
    teachers and childcare educators early years
    professionals government wants quality
    developmental experiences in early learning
    centres. Preschool teachers fleeing to primary.
  • NSW preschool and child care under common DOCS
    regulations. Centres gt30 have teacher. Community
    centres reported to be in crisis especially
    preschools because of funding freeze. Parents
    paying 30 per day on average. 100 preschools
    attached to government schools.

NSW and Victoria
  • Preschool is seen as pre-education rather than
    as part of the education continuum and there are
    limited links to schools.
  • Different government department responsibility
    for childcare, preschool and school is a
    challenge, particularly in Victoria and NSW.
    There are huge gaps in curriculum continuity for
    children, and transition from preschool to school
    is more challenging. Pay and award differences
    are significant and often create debate and
    division between services. (Walker 2004)

Queensland and WA an education focussed model
  • These are systems undergoing significant change,
    involving substantial changes to staffing and
  • WA has in recent years moved to full time
    pre-primary and shifted pre-primary and preschool
    onto school sites.
  • Queensland is moving from sessional preschool in
    government schools to a full time prep year.

ACT, SA, Tasmania more holistic views of
education and care
  • ACT Co-locations of preschools, childcare and
    schools in new areas. Super schools preschool to
    year 10, co-located with childcare, with joint
    facilities with communities or independent
  • Contours of Learning curriculum for 0-8 links
    across sectors.
  • promotes links between staff and offers greater
    continuity and flexibility for families.
  • co-location itself does not necessarily ensure
    a productive liaison (Walker 2004 ) but it
    opens the possibilities.
  • move to12 hours to allow for option of two full
    days of preschool.
  • SA Report of Ministerial Inquiry - June 2005.
    Strengthened and integrated universal services,
    whole of government framework. 0-8 focus.
    Education and childrens services is lead
    Ministry for coordination.
  • Child and family centres - bringing
    state-funded/employed preschool teachers into
    child care centres and child-care into preschool,
    some of them school-based.
  • Need to upgrade qualifications (4 yr qual for
    leadership positions in childcare centres),
    coordinated professional development, address
    other employment/conditions issues eg

Co-location of childcare in Tasmania
  • Preschool is an integral part of each school.
  • Childcare services are increasingly being
    co-located on school sites.
  • Staff work together in professional development,
    planning and information sharing
  • Support for local clusters
  • Easy accessibility, proximity and continuity for
    children and families
  • Shared curriculum across care and education
    Essential Connections.
  • the end of the year, they just make the
    transition across to the big school with no
    worries. The teachers already know us all and we
    know most of them
  • (parent at preschool).

Preschool and childcare on school site
  • There is a door with a round window between the
    childcare and the preschool. 3 year olds line up
    with their bags pretending to be four so they can
    go through the Magic Door There are no
    transition issues.

What do parents want?
  • Parents reported high levels of satisfaction in
    communities where there are strong links between
    child care, preschool and school and they are
    viewed by parents as all working together.
    These are shared sites or close locations where
    early childhood staff across child care,
    preschool and school are all known to families.
    (Walker 2004, p. 12)

School as a community hub
  • We had a wing at school not being used, we put
    the kinder here with a parent room with a one way
    mirror, this encouraged other groups to come in,
    Kid Safe moved in, other things in the community,
    parents with babies etc feel comfortable then to
    ease into kinder.
  • there were lots of young mothers and single
    parents, some hanging around, wanted something
    they could do.
  • So we extended our school so we catered for
    everyone. Parents rooms, lounge where they would
    relax, coffee, even sleep and we had Internet
  • (Verbal submission to National Inquiry at
    Tasmanian forum)

Issues to address
  • Serious under-resourcing of early childhood
    education in Australia.(1.6b to provide
    preschool education to all 3 4 year olds to ACT
    level. Senate estimates )
  • Divided structures across Australia.
  • Need to address barriers to participation,
    especially for disadvantaged children.
  • Growing privatisation of services.
  • The pay, conditions and status of early childhood
  • Lack of shared vision and commitment to universal
    preschool education.

Some next steps
  • A commitment to universal access to high quality,
    free preschool education for at least one year
    prior to school, moving towards two years for all
  • A clear vision and policy framework for children
    from 0-8. (OECD)
  • Recognition of early childhood education as a
    vital part of the education continuum. The lead
    ministry (OECD) should be education. State
    education ministries could encompass
  • A national plan to ensure equity and access,
    developed in partnership by the Commonwealth and
    states and territories.
  • Reintroduction of Commonwealth funding so
    governments provide the full costs of preschool
    education for all children.
  • Priority to be given to ensuring access for
    Indigenous children, children with special needs
    and disadvantaged children
  • A commitment to quality education for all.

Our next steps
  • Talk to each other, find our common ground
  • Identify the common principles and a vision we
    can share.
  • Recognise that there is no one model to fit all
  • Identify what we want to maintain and what we
    want to change.
  • Investigate good international models UK, NZ,
  • Establish priorities for action at all levels
  • Involve parents
  • Lobby politicians
  • Dont take no for an answer.