Campaign to protect our preschools

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3 February 2017

Preschool is vital for a child’s development because it gives them the social and educational skills they need to achieve at school.

Over 95% of four-year-olds in Australia are enrolled in a government-funded program of 15 hours per week of preschool. But this is under threat from the Federal Government who won’t guarantee its share of the funding beyond 2017.

That’s why the AEU has launched its ‘Protect Our Preschools’ campaign – calling on the Federal Government to guarantee ongoing funding for preschools and end the uncertainty facing parents and staff.

If you want to find out more about the campaign, and sign the petition to Malcolm Turnbull visit www.protectourpreschools.com.au

The lack of certainty around funding stops preschools from being able to plan for the future and this puts educators jobs at risk.

Australia already lags behind the rest of the developed world in provision of preschool. We don’t need to go backwards, we need to work to extend government-funded preschool to three-year-olds as already happens in New Zealand and many European countries.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said that all children deserved access to quality preschool to help prepare them for school.

“Research shows quality preschool is the best preparation for a life of learning. It boosts readiness for school and lifts results in the long-term.

“Why would the Federal Government even consider cutting funding from programs that are delivering huge benefits to children?

“Every child deserves a head start on learning and access to 15 hours a week of preschool, taught by a university trained teacher.

“This campaign gives parents and educators a voice to tell the Turnbull Government that all children deserve 15 hours of preschool.

“We will be encouraging supporters to sign our petition, fill out postcards which will be delivered to politicians and spread the word about the threat to quality preschool.”

Australia already invests far less in early childhood education than the OECD average: our funding accounts for just 0.5% of GDP compared to the OECD average of 0.8%.

This flies in the face of research that finds that preschool is cost-effective way of lifting school performance.

Dr Stacey Fox from the University of Victoria's Mitchell Institute said other OECD countries had extended preschool and educational outcomes had improved.

"We've looked across the international research literature. We've spoken to preschool teachers and child development experts in Australia and there's an overwhelming consensus that two years of preschool gives children the best start," Dr Fox said.

She described preschool as a ‘wonder drug’ which could lift every aspect of a child’s development.

Even the economists at the Productivity Commission support government-funded preschool, saying that: “Universal access to a preschool program in the year before children start school should continue to be supported by all governments as a key measure for child development and transition to school.”

Ms Haythorpe said the Protect Our Preschools campaign would promote the value of preschool to put further pressure on the Federal Government to provide long-term funding.

“Education Minister Simon Birmingham has spoken repeatedly about the benefits of preschool, he needs to do more than talk, he needs to give preschools the funding certainty they need.

“The AEU, its members and supporters have already campaigned successfully on two occasions for preschool funding to be extended. But short-term extensions are not good enough, our children deserve guaranteed access to quality preschool and educators deserve certainty about their future.”