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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
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How do we achieve universal, high quality early childhood education? Michaela KronemannAustralian 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 practitioners • ongoing consultations, roundtables, policy development • 2004 Independent National Inquiry into preschool education. 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 Australia • ‘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 debatable…There 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 divide.’ 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 countries. Commonwealth funding abolished in 1985. OECD, Education at a Glance 2005
Where we are now: structures of preschool education • Staffed and funded by Education Departmentsand: • 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 schools. 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 school • around 17.1% of all 3 year olds attend preschool. 81.4% 98.1% 96.3% 95.1% 59.1% 83.6% More than 40,000 children are missing out 96.0% 101.0%
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 can’t 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 remote • 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 forchildren with special needs • Significant differences in government funding levels and models contribute to unequal access.
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
Recommendations • Anational planfor 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
Recommendations • 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.
Recommendations • 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.
Recommendations 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 responsibility. • 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 children’s services. • Best Start/First Start programs to try and bring services together. • Victorian commitment to children’s hubs – preschool, child care, other programs – in DHS. Funding for LDC will increase. Proposal to make teachers and childcare educators ‘early year’s 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 >30 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 resources. • 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 schools. • 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 children’s 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 portability.
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. • “..at 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 facilities.” (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 professionals. • 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 (OECD). • 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 e.c.services. • 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 systems/needs. • Identify what we want to maintain and what we want to change. • Investigate good international models – UK, NZ, etc • Establish priorities for action at all levels • Involve parents • Lobby politicians • Don’t take no for an answer. www.aeufederal.org.au firstname.lastname@example.org