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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Issue 60 Spring 2015
3 REFLECTIONS • GOWRIE AUSTRALIA • SPRING 2015 - ISSUE 60 Dear Colleagues, As this issue of Reflections goes to press the education and care sector is on the cusp of major reform should the Senate pass the current Child Care Subsidy Package. The sector has been in a flux of ongoing change for what now seems to be decades. Change for the better is welcomed, and this sector has proven its adaptability, flexibility and indeed resilience, facing challenge and opportunity with a 'can do' attitude. But one wonders, when will the sector have the opportunity to draw breath and focus on the most important role the sector has -- providing quality education and care for young children that improves their education, health and wellbeing outcomes? For some within the sector there is a view that aspects of the impending change have some real gains. The single payment system for families removes the confusion that currently exists with the two-system model. Payment directly to the service provider to ensure the funding is used to reduce the cost is welcomed, and is a clearer message to families of the government's contribution to the cost of education and care. The increased investment, with government projections indicating that families will be better off, should help to support affordability for families. It is a tangible investment in the future. Also commendable are the additional subsidy options to provide a higher level of assistance for families in specific circumstances, ensuring that vulnerable children and their families are supported. Funds must be directed to where they are most needed. The flexible operating requirements will, for some services, support viability, acknowledging there are fixed operational costs regardless of operating hours. The sustainability grant requirements are fair to ensure that services review and adapt their business models to support viability. However, it is important that services are maintained in communities where there are no other services and options for families, therefore the sustainability criteria must take into consideration such circumstances. The Inclusion Support Program and the increase in funding to support inclusive practices replace the former elements of the Inclusion and Professional Support Program. The challenge will be to ensure that the administration requirements of this program are streamlined to ease the burden of the current system to support effective and efficient use of funds, as well as make access simplified for stakeholders. On the flip side, some of the changes proposed may not be in the best interests of children. There are very specific concerns: that the limitations of the proposed Activity Test eligibility may result in some children not having access to subsidised education and care; that there are no qualification requirements linked to the Nanny Pilot Program; that there is uncertainty of Universal Access beyond the two year extension; and great concern concerning the cessation of subsidised professional development and learning. Silence remains around the crucial issue of workforce -- the low wages and conditions, the critical retention and recruitment issues, the quality of accredited training. Government policy and practice cannot be measured only in terms of increased workforce participation by parents. To deliver on the promises of quality the sector must have a consistent, highly trained and skilled workforce. Passion and commitment alone is insufficient -- educators must be supported with wages, conditions and professional support which are commensurate with their important role and responsibility in contributing to the improved education, health and well being of children. There is now a myriad of research to validate the value and benefits of access to quality early education and care for young children. It supports improved educational outcomes, amplifies learning, prepares children for further learning in a school environment, and has long-term social and economic benefits. This must be acknowledged and valued by all levels of government but, importantly, valued by the customers -- families. There is a great deal of work to be undertaken to inform families so they too can be strong advocates -- they have the power to influence outcomes. Despite an extensive Productivity Commission Inquiry, which was one of the most responded to inquiries ever undertaken, despite all the submission writing, consultations, meetings, advocacy and lobbying, it is clear we still have work to do! All children, regardless of their postcode and the work status of their families, should have access to education and care. Our overseas counterparts in OECD countries have managed it, why can't Australia? While the current package goes some way to improve access and affordability, let's remove the politics from education and care and find a way that leads to policy that acknowledges and values the importance of the early years by delivering a system that supports affordable, accessible quality education and care for all children. Ros Cornish & Jane Bourne on behalf of Gowrie Australia. editorial contents 'Closing the gap' for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children 4 It's Okay to Play! 8 Developing Meaningful Partnerships with Vulnerable Families 10 Sensory Play and the Magic Behind the Mess 14 Back Cover - National & International Conference Updates 20 CHILD RIGHTS: advocacy in everyday practice 16 Our Little Linguists: The Benefits of Celebrating Linguistic Diversity with Young Children 18 Access an e-copy of Reflections at: www.gowrie-brisbane.com.au www.gowriesa.org.au www.gowriensw.com.au www.gowrie-tas.com.au www.gowrievictoria.org.au www.gowrie-wa.com.au Natalie Grenfell -- Gowrie NSW Andrew Hume -- Gowrie Victoria Jane Bourne -- The Gowrie (QLD) Inc Kaye Colmer -- Gowrie SA Tonia Westmore -- The Gowrie (WA) Inc Ros Cornish -- Lady Gowrie Tasmania GOWRIE CEOs
Reflections Issue 59 Winter 2015
Reflections Issue 61, 2015