7 August 2005

The Early Education Federation views with alarm a report that suggests the government’s policy of 20 hours free early childhood education for three and four year olds at community-based services should be axed before it is even introduced in 2007.

The Early Education Federation includes 17 organisations involved in early childhood education, representing kindergartens, playcentres, full day centres, home-based providers, hospital services, special education and providers of teacher training, as well as employers and unions for early childhood teachers.

Organisations represented provide education to around 113,000 children.

For decades, three and four-year-olds have had access to free or almost-free education by trained registered teachers in kindergartens, but, with more parents working, these have been inaccessible to many because of their sessional hours.

Extending this funding to other community-based services staffed by qualified and registered teachers is an initiative that was welcomed by everyone with a commitment to education throughout the sector.

“It will improve affordability for parents and will improve access for many children, as well as facilitating the development of more community-based services” says Early Education Federation secretary Helen Baxter.

The Early Education Federation is also alarmed by a suggestion in the same report that the move towards a fully qualified workforce should be watered down.

By 2012, all regulated teachers in early childhood services will need to be qualified with a teaching diploma.  “All the evidence suggests qualifications are linked to quality” says Ms Baxter.

For this reason, most centres are taking advantage of the generous government support and the flexible education options provided to upgrade staff qualifications.

“Parents would not want their children taught by unqualified teachers in schools” says Ms Baxter.  “Why should younger and more vulnerable children, often in centres for longer hours, be considered inferior to school-age children?”