Australia: calls for guaranteed preschool funding are made as government prepares for cuts

Educators have launched a campaign demanding sustainable funding for preschools, which they see as vital for a child’s development, giving them social and educational skills they need to achieve at school.

 

On 3 February, the Australian Education Union (AEU), an Education International national affiliate, launched its ‘Protect Our Preschools’ campaign, calling on the Federal Government to guarantee ongoing funding for preschools and to end the uncertainty facing parents and education personnel.

While over 95 per cent of four-year-olds in Australia are enrolled in a government-funded programme of 15 hours per week of preschool, this programme is under threat from public authorities that will not guarantee its share of the funding beyond 2017. This has prevented preschools from being able to plan for the future, putting educators’ jobs at risk.

Pressure on public authorities

All children deserve access to quality preschool to help prepare them for school, said AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe. The union’s new campaign will promote the value of preschool and put further pressure on the Federal Government to provide long-term funding.

“Education Minister Simon Birmingham has spoken repeatedly about the benefits of preschool; he needs to do more than talk, he needs to give preschools the funding certainty they need,” she stressed.

The AEU, its members, and supporters have already campaigned successfully on two occasions for preschool funding to be extended, she said. “Short-term extensions are not good enough; our children deserve guaranteed access to quality preschool and educators deserve certainty about their future.”

Quality preschool best preparation for life-long learning

Haythorpe highlighted how research shows that quality preschool is the best preparation for a life of learning, because it boosts readiness for school and lifts results in the long term.

She questioned why the Federal Government would even consider cutting funding from programmes that deliver huge benefits to children. Every child deserves a head start on learning and access to 15 hours a week of preschool, taught by a university trained teacher, Haythorpe said.

Falling behind in funding

This campaign gives parents and educators a voice to tell the Turnbull Government that all children deserve 15 hours of preschool.

Australia already invests far less in early childhood education than the average in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. Its national funding accounts for just 0.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) compared to the OECD average of 0.8 per cent, Haythorpe said, adding that “this flies in the face of research that finds that preschool is cost-effective way of lifting school performance”.

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