Election 2016: what will a re-elected Coalition government mean for Early Childhood Education and Care?

Labor leader Bill Shorten on Sunday conceded the 2016 election to Malcolm Turnbull, though it remains uncertain whether the Coalition will form a majority or minority government.

So what’s ahead now for health, infrastructure, the economy, welfare, education and more? The Conversation’s experts respond to what the Coalition’s agenda will mean for key policy areas.

If only our politicians could learn to play nicely; to talk, listen and work together for the public good. If this were the case, there may be an upside to the prospect of a minority government, with the possibility of more informed debate and better early childhood education and care (ECEC) policy in Australia.

The Coalition has on the table a major reform of childcare assistance. The “Jobs for Families” package represents A$3 billion new money to make ECEC more affordable. The reform has many positive elements but places too much emphasis on childcare to support workforce participation and not enough on children’s early learning outcomes.

Tackling affordability will enable more children to participate in ECEC. However, access is linked to parent workforce participation rather than promoting early learning. Low-income families who fail the work activity test will have their current funded hours cut in half to around one day per week.

Presently reliant on the Senate passing regressive cuts to family payments, families may be waiting some time for any fee relief. There is also no ongoing commitment to fund preschool education prior to school.

There is little on offer for the professionals providing these services. At a time when many educators are moving to other education contexts in search of better pay and conditions, there is no plan to grow and sustain a qualified and professional early years workforce.

Affordable and accessible ECEC is well placed to deliver a range of educational, social and economic benefits to the community. However, the Coalition’s reform package makes it harder not easier for children experiencing disadvantage to participate in early learning programs; this cost will be born by these children, their families and the entire community.

Susan Irvine, Associate Professor, School of Early Childhood, Queensland University of Technology

Republished from the Conversation. Read the original article here.

Susan Irvine

I am an early childhood professional with over 25 years experience working in early childhood education and care (ECEC), in service provision, public policy and higher education. Prior to coming to QUT in 2010, I held the position of CEO at Lady Gowrie Queensland. I maintain a research interest in ECEC policy and am currently involved in a national study identifying ways to grow a qualified and sustainable professional ECEC workforce.

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