Long-term Universal Access Funding will benefit everyone
A confidential report for Australia’s education ministers has urged the federal government to lock in five years of funding for kindergartens or face a system compromised by inefficiency and high staff turnover, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The Universal Access National Partnership (UANP) was established with the goal of providing universal access to quality and affordable kindergarten in the year before school for all Australian children.
The paper reported that the short-term, piecemeal renewals of the Universal Access funding (as has occurred six times since 2014) has adversely affected the otherwise successful strategy.
The review found: that the current arrangement had resulted in ‘remarkable’ advancements, with kindergarten enrolments in the year before school rising from 12 per cent of children in 2008 to 95 per cent in 2018; that the current levels of funding were sufficient; but, that funding uncertainty hindered kindergartens’ ability to plan and invest effectively.
For example, attracting and retaining appropriately trained and educated teachers is difficult when there is no job security year-to-year.
The report recommended that funding be guaranteed in a five-year agreement from 2021, with ongoing national coordination by the federal government and reduced reliance on performance-based payments.
It further recommended that after the first five-year agreement ends, that a new, stronger agreement be legislated and include more funding accountability from different governments.
Review findings underpin IEU position
“This report supports the call our union has been making on the federal government for nearly a decade,” John said.
“The absence of a long-term commitment to the early childhood education sector is a detriment to both children and employees in the sector,” John said.
“Especially when there is significant evidence showing how important early years education is for life-long learning.
“Quality early childhood education, such as that delivered by kindergartens in Queensland, has also been shown to have huge benefits to the Australian economy in terms of increasing education and employment outcomes, allowing parents to work full-time as well as providing secure and properly renumerated careers for kindergarten teachers and assistants.
“The review should be open to the public so that we can keep the government accountable to what is in the best interests of Australian families,” John said.
Fund Our Future
Ongoing, guaranteed funding through Universal Access is not a new idea to our union.
We have been consistently fighting for a long-term commitment to investing in early childhood education through the Fund Our Future campaign as we know first-hand the difference that quality early childhood education has on children’s development.
At its heart, quality education depends upon ongoing funding at a level which facilitates professional rates of pay and conditions for kindergarten employees which recognise the professional nature of their work.
Image: IEUA-QNT Senior Industrial Officer John Spriggs and IEUA-QNT Early Childhood Education Council Representative Jenny Finlay.