Labor MP for Barton Linda Burney listens to educators' priorities at Uniting Frederick Street Preschool Rockdale

Early learning: Labor MP for Barton Linda Burney visits Uniting Frederick Street Rockdale on Thursday. The centre has also been classified as a centre of excellence, and has exceeded most national standards.
Early learning: Labor MP for Barton Linda Burney visits Uniting Frederick Street Rockdale on Thursday. The centre has also been classified as a centre of excellence, and has exceeded most national standards.

The value of an early childhood education was at the fore of discussions this month at Uniting Frederick Street Preschool, Rockdale.

Labor MP for Barton visited the preschool last Thursday, to hear from educators about why early learning is crucial for every child.

She was there as part of the Early Learning Matters campaign, which is advocating for wider access to early learning. It is a national initiative of the Early Learning Everyone Benefits campaign. Centres invited their local members to experience a morning of interaction with staff, children and parents.

Preschool director Lisa Reidy says the early learning years are vital for a child's education.

"Early learning matters because it's in these early years before children turn five, that children's brains are growing the fastest and are wired to learn," she said. "It's when the foundations for learning, health and behaviour throughout life are laid down.

"We find early learning is particularly important in our community. For the many children in our service who come from diverse culture and language backgrounds, it's an opportunity to develop vital language and literacy skills that place them on an even playing field with other children their age."

Research shows that children who participate in one or more years of quality early learning have improved school education performance, are better able to manage their behaviour and have lower levels of hyperactivity. They are also more likely to finish high school and go on to academic studies and more likely to find steady employment.

Campaign spokeswoman and chief executive of Early Childhood Australia, Samantha Page, says while Australia has improved in attendance of four-year-olds in preschool programs in recent years, it is still in the bottom third of developed countries for attendance in early learning for three-year-olds and younger.

"While the new Child Care Subsidy system is making access to early learning more affordable for most families where both parents are working, there are concerns that some vulnerable children (who benefit the most) are missing out on access to early learning reduced," she said.

Talking priorities: Linda Burney with staff at the preschool.

Talking priorities: Linda Burney with staff at the preschool.

The campaign calls on the federal government to ensure all Australian children have access to at least two days per week of early childhood education, irrespective of their parents' activities, develop a a strategy to ensure no children fall though the gaps, provide a long-term commitment to maintain current total levels of funding for universal access to kindergarten or preschool programs in the year before school, extend funding for play-based programs to support children aged three, improve quality of early education and care and improve support for disadvantaged children.

The federal government states that is investing more than $9 billion in early learning and child care this financial year, including more than $440 million to support around 350,000 children to access 15 hours per week of preschool in the year before school.

It is supporting early childhood workers to educate children by funding innovative programs like Early Learning Languages Australia (ELLA) and Early Learning STEM Australia to develop foreign language skills and an interest in science long before children enter a classroom.

ELLA is in place in more than 3500 preschools throughout Australia, with a trial currently underway to expand it into primary schools in foundation to year two. More than 100 preschool services around Australia are also taking part in the ELSA pilot, which uses digital apps to introduce young children through play to foundational science, technology and mathematics concepts.

Also published on Friday by metropolitan media, was data that showed that 1304 NSW childcare service providers failed to meet national standards, as recorded by the Australian Children's Education and Care Quality.

The report stated that those centres were "working towards" the standard in categories across education, health, safety, staffing, physical environment, relationships with children and the community, collaborative partnerships with families, governance and leadership.

But an ACECQA spokesman says such media reports fail to recognise that "working towards" a standard is not a fail, and a centre that records this rating is still a safe provider.

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