The short-term commitment of $453.1 million from the federal government is set to extend the National Partnership Agreement on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education in the year before school, only until the end of 2020.
Early Childhood Australia (ECA) says the government has missed the opportunity to provide long-term commitment to preschool funding and address problems with the Child Care Subsidy.
“It’s disappointing that the Federal Government has ignored the strong and consistent evidence that Australia needs to increase investment in early childhood development. This budget delivers a minimal investment when there is so much more that needs to be done,” ECA’s CEO Samantha Page said.
“ECA and most early childhood organisations have consistently urged the Government to adopt the recommendation of the Lifting Our Game report to extend funding for preschool to three year olds.”
“The Government has ignored economists and education experts who consistently recommend lifting participation in early education will deliver social and economic benefits over the medium and long term. Australia can improve its education outcomes, lift women’s workforce participation and reduce childhood disadvantage.”
The Parenthood’s Executive Director, Alys Gagnon, also expressed disappointment in the lack of long-term sustainable preschool funding.
“The rolling series of yearly funding deals have left parents with uncertainty, and unable to properly plan their household finances. We are very worried that this lack of certainty may mean some children miss out on preschool and that some children may face reduced learning opportunities.”
Two years of high-quality, play-based early learning is well documented as a key to doing better at school and has many positive long-term outcomes.
“Importantly, preschool is of huge benefit to children who might otherwise face a barrier to learning when they get to school. AEDC data shows one in five children will start school facing a barrier to learning, and sadly, we know that children who start behind usually stay behind,” said Gagnon.
An investment in preschool for three-year-olds is yet to see any commitment from the federal government despite being described by experts as the “single most impactful reform governments can make in early childhood policy.”
The 2019 budget also provides nothing to improving the quality of early education or address the workforce challenges in the early childhood sector.