No Time for Gloom in Early Childhood Education – Commentary
27 March 2012
ChildForum ECE Network
It is not all gloom in early childhood education services as the recent Early Childhood Council (ECC) employers lobby
group survey of business confidence amongst its members has made it out to be, ChildForum says.
“Children are still enrolling and children are attending for longer hours while the number of early childcare centres
opening up is continuing to increase,” ChildForum’s National Co-coordinator Sarah Farquhar says.
According to the lobby group’s survey, fear of further government revenue cuts is undermining the confidence of those
running early childhood centres. The ECC portrays early childcare centres as grappling with both the revenue cuts of the
Government’s last term and the widespread fear of new ones, excessive red tape, ‘unaffordable’ pay demands from
teachers, and struggling parents unable to pay their fees.
However, Dr Farquhar says demand for childcare in particular is growing and there continues to be more new early
childhood centres opening.
“Anxieties around uncertainties over funding are just that -- anxieties. But many operators are nevertheless getting on
with their business and have learnt that business planning needs to take into account changing economic circumstances
and government funding.”
A ChildForum similar survey last year showed that uncertainty was a big issue and what would happen to ECE funding
continued to worry some ECE operators.
In regard to earlier cutbacks in funding, early childhood services have made adjustments and we have not seen large
scale closures, Dr Farquhar says.
“There has already been a definite trend toward employing cheaper and part-time staff over full-time staff over the past
two years. The supply of teachers has caught up with demand and now teachers are accepting whatever the employer is
willing to offer or they will not get a job.
“So what the ECC employers’ lobby survey is showing is nothing new and nothing which is not already known.”
Dr Farquhar says the Government has already acted on concerns expressed by the ECC lobby about red tape.
It has cut the number of licences an early childhood service with more than 50 children must have, allowing centres to
have up to three times the number of children if they wished. The government has held back from making improvements in
regulation that would impact financially on service budgets such as reducing the number of infants per adult in the
regulations or lifting the minimum percentage of qualified teachers required in centres.
“ChildForum suggests that the sooner the Government brings certainty to the funding situation, the better.
“With the elimination of stress in not knowing what further changes in funding might be around the corner, the
Government and ECE services will then be able to work better together on the quality of care and education of children
rather than the on-going focus on money, Dr Farquhar says.
Here are four quotes from ChildForum’s ‘State of the ECE Sector in 2011’ Survey::
• “The ECE Taskforce report has placed a good deal of anxiety on educators, families and business. We have had to work
extremely hard to keep everyone positive and upbeat.” (The ECE Taskforce was commissioned by the Government in 2011; the Early Childhood Council lobby was part of the
• “To provide the best service for all, we need to be able to focus on providing great programmes that inspire and give
children the best opportunities to achieve and have fun!”
• “We are thriving with a full roll, small waiting list and very happy families.”
• “We have a new business and we are growing in numbers steadily week by week.”
A review of the latest statistics on changes in the early childhood sector and more information about how things are
going in the sector is available at www.childforum.com