Don't snap back
The Prime Minister has indicated that the government intends to end fee-free childcare and go back to the old subsidy system on 28 June.
The IEU is concerned that 'free childcare' will end abruptly at the end of June, with enrolments falling when we revert back to full fees because of drastic increases in unemployment and underemployment as a result of Coronavirus shutdowns.
We need to urgently fix early childhood education to protect centres on the brink, ensure kids can access the education and care they need and help families adjust to the 'new normal'.
Snapping back to the old unsustainable system right now would be disastrous.
Our friends at The Parenthood want to know what you think about child care being free. Join us today as we call on the Prime Minister Scott Morrison to urgently put a stop to plans to ‘snap back’ to the old system on 28 June.
On 23 May, The Parenthood released preliminary results after surveying almost 1400 parents with young children. 44 per cent of respondents said their income has been reduced due to Coronavirus and one in three stated they will be forced to reduce days or remove their children from early childhood when full fees return.
However, we are not advocating that the current childcare relief package consisting of a maximum of 50% of the daily fee or 50% of the maximum hourly rate remains in place as this significant drop in income is threatening the viability of services.
Early childhood education should be a universal right. All children should have access to two days of free early childhood education and care that is fully funded by the federal government. Early childhood education must be funded to the level that provides for teachers to be paid the same as their counterparts in primary schools. The current system remains unaffordable despite government subsidies and historically low wages.
It is inequitable that education is free for children from 5 to 18 years in a school setting but costs up to $200 per day for children between 0 and 5? This makes even less sense given the large body of research showing that every dollar invested in education in the early years reaps the highest returns of any age group and that 75% of children’s brains develop before five years of age.
When we look at this from an international perspective – almost 2/3 of high-income countries provide free early childhood education for at least a year prior to school (UCLA Fielding School of Public Health World Policy Analysis Center, 2018) Preschool age children in Switzerland have the right to attend fully funded preschool education for up to two years. In Denmark and Estonia all early childhood settings are publicly funded. In Chile, the Czech Republic, Poland and the Russian Federation access to preschool in the year before school is a universal entitlement (Bertram & Pascal, 2016). In Finland, government funding (Federal and Municipal) comprises 86% of the cost of ECEC and parents pay only 14% with the year before school is entirely free for families. In Australia that seems only a remote dream with ECEC costs among the highest in the OECD coming in at approximately 27% of family income, compared with Sweden’s 5% (OECD, 2019).
Reviews of international evidence (Pascal & Bertram, 2012, Corak et al., 2012) showed that inequalities are entrenched during the early years and by the age children enter primary school there are significant differences in the development of children depending upon the socioeconomic status of their family, and that these differences are more likely to increase, rather than decrease, over time. Unsurprisingly, countries with free early childhood education and care demonstrate higher enrolment rates.
Education Finland’s website states: “We in Finland believe that good quality early education and care should be the universal right of every child regardless of the country they grow up in”. The IEU couldn’t agree more.
If the government is also in agreement with this position, they must increase funding to ensure all Australian children have access to fully government funded early childhood education and care – the future of Australia depends on it.