02 JunTime to commit: Keep funding 15 hours
ELAA launches the Keep funding 15 hours campaign.
This Federal election provides another opportunity for both sides of politics to commit to funding 15 hours of preschool (for forty weeks a year) beyond 2017.
For many parents and organisations involved in early childhood education and care, this opportunity feels a little like Groundhog Day – but we have to stand up once again and demand that the Coalition and Labor parties make this commitment. So let’s take a quick look at where we’ve been and then agree on what we need to do next.
Back in 2007, the then Labor government embarked on an exciting reform agenda in early childhood education and care that included the development and implementation of the National Quality Framework, and the first National Partnership Agreement on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education.
A core component of the Universal Access reform agenda was the acknowledgement – based on a wealth of Australian and international research – that all children would benefit from at least 15 hours (for forty weeks a year) of quality early learning in the year before school.
Through the Council of Australian Governments, the Labor Government then signed a partnership agreement with all States and Territories, whereby it committed the Commonwealth to funding these additional hours until the end of 2014.
But Labor failed to take the opportunity to enshrine this funding beyond that time.
In September 2013, the new Coalition Government embarked on a different early childhood agenda and refused to commit to funding 15 hours of preschool into the future. ELAA led a highly successful online and media campaign – together with other early childhood organisations, service providers, teachers, unions and most importantly parents – to pressure the Government into continuing to fund 15 hours. Ultimately, the Government gave in and committed to funding 15 hours – but only for a further year.
Through the course of a lengthy inquiry by the Productivity Commission into child care and early childhood learning, we made some progress and in response to the Commission’s recommendations, the Government re-committed to funding 15 hours – but only for 2016 and 2017.
Like their Labor counterparts, the Coalition failed to take the opportunity to guarantee this critical funding for children into the future.
These continued policy failures by both sides of politics creates tremendous uncertainty. And it is not just about uncertainty for services in delivering programs; it is not just about insecure employment for early childhood teachers and educators; and it is not just about potential increases in parental fees should the Federal Government withdraw from funding 15 hours.
It is about our children’s educational future and about the long-term economic and social well-being of our nation.
So what do we need to do? We need to stand up once more and demand a better deal from the Federal Government for our youngest learners.
This election we are launching an even larger campaign to fight for ongoing funding of 15 hours. It is up to each and every one of us to make sure early childhood education counts at this election.
We encourage you to support the Keep Funding 15 Hours campaign by signing the petition to Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten asking for an ongoing commitment from the Coalition and from Labor to funding 15 hours.
It’s time for our political leaders to make a commitment to the future of all Australian children.
Shane Lucas, CEO Early Learning Association Australia
Further information about how you can assist with this campaign is available at www.keepfunding15hours.org.au