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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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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?
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:
“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 )
‘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
Australia is the lowest
spending of 24 countries.
Commonwealth funding abolished in 1985.
OECD, Education at a Glance 2005
Education departments also responsible for child care in SA, Tasmania and ACT.
New links emerging between education and childcare and health in some systems.
More than 40,000 children are missing out
“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,
“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.”
Children most likely to not have equal access:
Significant barriers exist in Australia
that prevent equity of access.
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.
The National Agenda for Early Childhood
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)
These are systems undergoing significant change, involving substantial changes to staffing and resources.
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.
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.
(parent at preschool).
“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.”
“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)
“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)