Doorstop interview Goodstart Early Learning Parafield Gardens, Adelaide
Topics: New child care package; Preschool funding
Simon Birmingham: It’s wonderful to be at Goodstart Early Learning at Parafield Gardens, another outstanding early childhood education and care provider around Australia who have made a really successful transition to the Turnbull Government’s new child care support framework. This centre like so many others that has helped support families transition across, says that many of their families are receiving increased rates of subsidy, greater financial support for their child care bills and are in turn actually turning up and accessing a bit more child care and early childhood education as a result, allowing them to work an extra shift or an extra day and providing the opportunities for families to be able to manage their lives without child care costs being such an impediment. That’s why we’ve delivered these reforms, continued to consult on their implementation and are pleased to see the types of benefits that prove the arguments we made which was that they would benefit around one million Australian families often to the tune of about $1300 per child per annum.
Question: Minister, is it the case that the Federal Government’s about to cut half a billion dollars of funding to this sector?
Simon Birmingham: No. The Turnbull Government’s commitment to preschool education is absolute and we’re determined to make sure that, just as we’ve done before in continuing and renewing preschool agreements with the states on four separate occasions while we’ve been in office, that we will work with the states and territories to make sure that in future agreements, they address the serious issues around attendance in preschool. Because what we see is that around one in three children currently funded for preschool attendance aren’t attending for the 600 hours per year and that that gets worse amongst children in high disadvantage cohorts or Indigenous children, for example, where it gets to as low as about one in two. And so we’ve really got to work hard with the states and territories to make sure that future preschool funding is based on children actually attending and participating to get the benefits that will give them a flying start at school.
Question: But it is the case that this funding expires at the end of June in 2020. Is that correct?
Simon Birmingham: Preschool agreements from the Federal Government to the states have always been time limited. Under us they’ve been renewed on four separate occasions and we’re committed to work with the states towards future preschool agreements.
Question; But if there’s a disagreement with the states about how this is funded into the future could we be left in a situation where there is no agreement?
Simon Birmingham: Well we’re committed to work with the states towards future preschool agreements and we want the states to work with us to make sure they don’t just take the money for kids who don’t turn up to preschool, that they actually implement the policy measures to get more children attending preschool, especially those who need the support most in the year before they start school.
Question: I think Australia’s spending on early childhood education [inaudible] is that acceptable?
Simon Birmingham: Well it depends what you count. Of course our investment in terms of helping Australian families to access early childhood education through the child care subsidy isn’t counted in some of those OECD statistics. Factor that in and Australia is indeed a very large investor in early childhood education and care.
Question: You were talking about children that don’t turn up or don’t access I suppose the funding, do you know why that is?
Simon Birmingham: Well there are a range of different reasons but we need to analyse them and get to the bottom of it and get the states to focus, not just on providing universal access to preschool, but ensuring the children who stand the most to gain from attending preschool are the ones who turn up and we know from our work through the early childhood development census and other analyses, that we can get the best bang for our buck in terms of preschool investment amongst disadvantaged cohorts who may not otherwise start ready to participate at school, but if they’re there in the preschool years that’s helping get them ready to succeed at school.