Thrive by Five: join the campaign for preschool funding now!
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 126 No 2, 12 March 2021, page no. 14
Preschool (kindy) funding is still in limbo, despite successive national campaigns for the funding to be made permanent by the federal government.
The Universal Access National Partnership funding (UANP) for preschools and kindergartens, which began in 2008, aimed to provide access to 15 hours per week for 40 weeks of the year. In 2013, this commitment was amended to 600 hours per year. The funding has been renewed or extended six times, with each extension having a duration of two years or less. In May last year, then Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan announced that the UANP would continue until the end of the 2021 school year.
Early childhood teacher members are extremely concerned that failure to guarantee ongoing universal access to 15 hours of quality early childhood education services will impact on children, as research has shown that the early years are a critical time for children to establish a love of life-long learning. It is the role of government to ensure that the next generation has a solid foundation for the future, and education plays a key role in a child’s development in those important early years.
In Queensland, the department uses UANP funding of 15 hours a week to provide pre-prep programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, as well as e-Kindy programs through School of the Future. The funds are also used to supplement school funding to provide state-delivered kindy (where kindergarten-aged children attend class in remote schools that are more than 40 km by road from a service that offers an approved kindy program). Queensland also promotes the Deadly Choices and Elders as Storytellers campaigns to promote the importance of participating in kindergarten to Indigenous families.
QTU members know the value of quality kindergarten education for four-year-olds in the year before prep begins and support an extension of the funding to include three-year olds. Without ongoing federal funding, programs like eKindy and state delivered kindy (SDK) cannot survive, and this will directly impact on families in rural and remote Queensland and on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.
Last year, the department trialled KindyLinQ, a 6-hour a week program to help 3-year-olds and their parents become familiar with the school environment. However, the program was disrupted by COVID-19, and while the pilot program was positively received by parents and teachers, ongoing funding for the program is yet to be finalised and will be the subject of a formal external evaluation this year.
Minister for Education Grace Grace recognises the value of high-quality early childhood education and has called on the federal government to commit to ongoing funding for universal access to preschool.
In 2020, the Education Council commissioned the Nous group to conduct an independent review of UANP. The report identifies a significant increase in participation in quality preschool and kindergarten of children in the year before full-time school. In Queensland, ABS data (2018) on preschool education indicates that 58,409 children were enrolled in a preschool program in the year before full-time school.
Members can join the campaign by contacting their Federal Member of Parliament and asking if they support the permanent funding of early years education.
Members can also sign up to Thrive by Five early childhood organisation
(https://thrivebyfive.org.au/), headed by Jay Weatherill, former Minister for Early Childhood Development and Premier of South Australia.