Productivity Commission report findings and recommendations welcomed with reservations
The release of the Productivity Commission report into Early Childhood Education and Childcare, recommending continued federal funding for pre-school and kindergartens has been cautiously welcomed by our union.
Our union Branch Secretary, Terry Burke, said the recommendations for continuing Universal Access funding for preschools and kindergartens was an acknowledgement of the importance of high quality early childhood education programs.
“The commission’s recommendation to continue universal access funding to guarantee access to an educational program for preschool-aged children, is vital to both children and the future of the sector,” he said.
“The recommendation that ‘government funding for preschool (on a per child basis) should ensure universal access for children to 15 hours per week of a preschool program for 40 weeks, in the year prior to starting school’ is welcomed, as is the suggestion that ‘governments investigate the hours of preschool attendance that would be optimal to ensure children’s development and successful transition to school’.
“The concern our members do have; however, is how and at what level early childhood education is to be funded.
“Issues such as the benchmark amount of funding to be provided per child, if and how subsidies are means tested, changes to family tax benefits and alterations to the state/federal funding mix would ultimately affect the viability of kindergartens and early childhood education.”
Mr Burke said the sector had been operating under a cloud since the last federal budget, which had made no provision for extending universal access funding beyond the end of the 2015 calendar year.
“The sector is currently operating under an interim funding arrangement but what it does require is a long term commitment by state and federal governments to providing sustainable funding for early childhood education.
“There are many issues to be considered by the federal government that will have a major and possibly unforeseen impact on families and the long term viability of the sector. It is vital that the government considers its response carefully and the impacts of its decisions.”