Separating care and education – again

Child care features prominently in the news currently. That’s good? Not really. The problem is that the focus is only on the prohibitive cost to families and insufficient supply. There needs to be more child care, and it needs to be cheaper – end of story.


The term education and care services began replacing preschool and child care around the launch of the EYLF in 2010 and in anticipation of the new National Quality Framework. One Framework and one system for assessing quality – most members of our profession understood the significance of that somewhat unwieldy new term and welcomed it. We inferred that the intention was to declare that all services offer both education and care, and that education and care are inseparable.

Finally, we thought, the artificial, unhelpful and inaccurate distinction made within and outside of the profession will disappear. No longer would anyone work and advocate with the notion that children learn only in services labelled pre-school or kindergarten, and that child care is little more than babysitting on a large scale – a necessary arrangement to enable workforce participation by parents, the aim being aim only to keep children safe and happily occupied. Status, working conditions, remuneration, and requirements for qualified staff were only some of the ways this distinction played out.

We did wonder, of course, how children would know that important learning didn’t happen until they entered something called preschool or kindergarten and that only then should they switch on their brains and learn!

While early childhood professionals understood the significance of the term education and care services, some educators felt threatened by the idea that children learned throughout a whole day. They were troubled by the prospect of working with children all day, working with very young children and the possibility of less favourable working conditions.

There hasn’t been enough time for the broader community to appreciate the significance of the term early education and care services and its implications for quality and to embrace it. The exception is families who have been fortunate enough to experience a very good quality full-day early education and care service. They understand what the term means.

Currently at the policy level we seem to be back where we used to be. When the topic is child care, politicians and bureaucrats focus on lack of access and affordability of child care as impediments to workforce participation. There appears to be little recognition that ‘child care’ represents a substantial proportion of many children’s childhoods, the time when foundational learning that shapes the rest of a child’s life occurs.

Children are learning all the time, in poor quality services and in excellent ones. The important question is What are they learning in services that are viewed as places to park children while their parents work?

Now, more than ever, we need to be strong, articulate, persuasive advocates for good quality in early education and care services.


Anne Stonehouse

Anne Stonehouse AM lives in Victoria and works as a consultant, writer and facilitator of professional learning in early childhood. She has published many books, articles and other resources for educators and parents. Her main professional interests are the nature of good quality curriculum for babies and toddlers and family-educator relationships in early learning settings. She was a member of the writing team in the Charles Sturt University-based consortium that developed the national Early Years Learning Framework. She is currently engaged in a number of projects related to the national and Victorian Frameworks.

4 thoughts on “Separating care and education – again”

    sue says:

    I have delivered a kindergarten program in both a stand alone kindy and as a universal access kindy teacher in child care. I have delivered the same high level of care and education. However, as a professional I feel very much less valued working in a child care setting. My working conditions and benefits have been reduced substantially. When will someone bring the differences early childhood teachers experience in different settings to the table too.

    Gael Nash says:

    Change will come about when we as early childhood teachers and educators unite to demand better pay and conditions, Sue and Penny. United Voice and IEU aren’t adequately representing us. We are a bunch of “nice ladies” and a few “nice blokes” who tacitly agree to being screwed over and then most of us do nothing about it but whinge. Imagine if we all decided to strike!!!

    Penny Schubert says:

    Great comment Sue. I am an Early Childhood Teacher in a Universal Access Programme in a fantastic Children’s centre, (LDC) and also would like to have the issue of pay addressed.
    By the way, prior to the Universal Access programme coming into place I worked as an Educator in the same centre, delivering the same high quality level of care and education. Philosophically I prefer the LDC model as I like the whole day to go with the natural flow of children’s energy levels. I’ve chosen to work for less pay for too long (over 20 years). This year I will finish the upgrade of my original Bachelor of Teaching degree to a Bachelor of Education degree. RESPECT for Educators and Teachers is sadly lacking and has been for too long in this field. This lack of respect for our profession equates to a lack of respect for Early Childhood and children’s rights and needs.

    Megan says:

    The problem is not just one for early childhood education in Australia. I am an Australian living and teaching in Aotearoa New Zealand and find the same issues here. I think that we as a professional body need to unite and respect ourselves, as a collective, ALL early childhood education professionals, before we can expect the rest of the world to respect and acknowledge our contribution to society. There is still so much divison between the sectors here and seems to be in Australia too. We each have a mandated curriculum now, the same university qualifications.
    Thanks for your comments Anne, I will share this with my colleagues here and continue to encourage them to be “strong, articulate advocates for good quality education and care” for all our children. Kia kaha Anne.

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