Federal government abandons crucial kindy funding
The federal government’s plan to cease Universal Access funding to Australian kindergartens has been revealed months after funding cuts were subtly included in the May federal budget.
The Universal Access program provides a weekly 15 hour educational program in Australian kindergartens delivered by a qualified teacher in the year before full-time schooling. It is funded under a National Partnership Agreement between federal and state and territory governments.
With the federal government now planning to withdraw its $440 million of funding for the program in June 2020 – and no signal from state and territory governments that they will shoulder the cost – this program is now at serious risk.
WATCH: IEU News in 90 Seconds for more on Universal Access cuts
Since 2009, the program has been funded on an annual basis.
Through our Fund Our Future campaign, our union has always advocated for a permanent, rather than piecemeal, approach to funding Universal Access.
IEUA-QNT Senior Industrial Officer John Spriggs said research has shown quality early childhood education provided children the best start in life in terms of their learning and development.
“Australia currently provides less than a quarter of the OECD average expenditure on early childhood education, when measured as a percentage of GDP,” Mr Spriggs said.
“That the federal government can seemingly attempt to abandon Universal Access, and Australian children, by stealth is particularly shameful.”
The federal government’s own Department of Education and Training’s website touts the benefits of Universal Access.
“Research shows that participating in a quality preschool program can significantly increase positive education and life outcomes for children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds,” the website states.
“Proof of long-lasting benefits of preschool can be seen in assessment results for Year 3 students, where children who attended preschool obtain consistently better results across all areas.
“Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) data demonstrates that children who attend preschool are also less likely to be developmentally vulnerable across all five developmental domains upon arrival at school.”
Members to renew campaign
Mr Spriggs said IEUA-QNT members would renew their Fund Our Future campaign to secure the permanent funding all kindergarten children deserve.
“Our members have long-been concerned by the lack of permanent funding commitment to the Universal Access program.
“It is only through significant campaigning by our members and others in the sector that we have seen the temporary funding extended on multiple occasions in recent years,” he said.
“Until governments make early childhood education funding a priority, we will continue to see a system that does not have the resources to give every child the start in life they deserve.”
Read more about the Fund Our Future campaign at www.fundourfuture.net.au