Early Years Summit – It’s Time to Re-Imagine the Early Years

The Australian Education Union is calling on the Federal Labor Government to prioritise universal access to preschool for three and four-year-olds and ensure greater investment in early childhood education and care workforce ahead of the Early Years Summit in Canberra tomorrow.

“This is an opportunity to re-create the early years system to ensure every child, no matter where they live or their family’s circumstances, has the opportunity to start school ready to learn,” said Correna Haythorpe, Federal President of the Australian Education Union.

“The importance of the first 1000 days of a child’s life cannot be overstated. Evidence shows the early years are critical for building children’s life-long social, emotional and cognitive skills.

“At the moment, too many children are missing out on early learning because of the design of the current system.

The profit-based model of early childhood education and care fails children from regional and remote Australia and children with disability, while the Activity Test excludes many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and children whose family experiences disadvantage.

“The best head start we can give Australian children is at least two years of high-quality, play-based learning delivered by a qualified early childhood teacher.

“At a minimum, the Summit must drive the extension of public funding for preschools for four-year-olds to include three-year-olds as is already underway in Victoria and New South Wales, remove the Activity Test for subsidised early childhood education and care, and address market failures in early learning.”

The Australian Education Union is also campaigning to have the early years workforce shortage crisis addressed immediately.

“Any ambition for early years reform will fail unless early childhood educators and teachers are appropriately paid and valued.

“Last year, a report by the Centre for Future Work warned that the current workforce shortage crisis in the early childhood education and care sector is only set to worsen significantly unless urgent action is taken to improve the pay and working conditions for teachers, educators and staff.

“To meet the growing demand in the sector, we need greater government investment in preschool teachers and staff. The kind of investment that can attract workers, meet their training needs through high quality initial teacher education and provide salaries in line with the enormous value educators and teachers bring to the country.

“The Early Years Summit is a tremendous opportunity to have these conversations with decision makers and advocate for legislative change that ensures a healthier and more productive future for children, parents, governments and society at large.”