PM throwing away billions by short-changing preschool

20 June 2019

The Morrison Government is throwing away billions of dollars of national economic benefit by failing to guarantee ongoing funding for fifteen hours per week of preschool for Australia’s 700,000 three- and four-year-old children.

A new report has shown that for every dollar invested in early childhood education Australia receives two dollars back through higher tax revenues, higher wages and productivity and lower spending on welfare and criminal justice.

While most countries around the world offer their children two years of preschool as standard, Australia only offers one year of early childhood education.

Australian Education Union Federal President Correna Haythorpe said the Morrison Government’s refusal to guarantee funding for early childhood education for more than twelve months at a time, and failure to provide funding for three-year-old children, was extremely short sighted and would cost Australia dearly in years to come.

“This report confirms what everyone in the early childhood sector already knows - investing in two years of preschool for our children should be a priority for the Morrison Government,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The Morrison Government has refused to guarantee ongoing funding for preschool, choosing to extend ECE funding only through to 2020 and only for four-year-old children, and ignores the benefits of early childhood education for three year olds.”

“According to the analysis, the $2.3 billion invested each year by government and parents for universal access to early childhood education in the year before school generates $4.8 billion in flow-on benefits,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Mr Morrison is throwing away billions of dollars of economic and societal benefits by refusing to bring Australia up to even the minimum preschool standards offered by most other countries.”

“In today’s uncertain economic climate a two for one return on investment would seem like an obvious winner, so the Morrison Government’s failure to invest properly in the future of our children is extremely short-sighted,” Ms Haythorpe said.

World Bank data shows that in 2015, the vast majority of countries provide two or three years of pre-primary education. Only 11 countries provide one year – Algeria, Angola, Bermuda, Gibraltar, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ireland, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Australia.

Ms Haythorpe said that Australia is already lagging behind much of the rest of the world when it comes to funding early childhood education.

“The benefits of a structured early childhood education program are compelling and proven,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The skills and abilities children develop in preschool lead to stronger academic performance through school, a greater likelihood of undertaking further education.”

“Preschool also improves cognitive, social and emotional outcomes, and is important in providing a strong foundation for learning,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Children from disadvantaged backgrounds benefit the most from early learning, as it provides a strong foundation for them to close the achievement gap with their peers.”

“The number of years spent in early childhood education is a strong indicator of a child’s level of achievement in later stages of life, both in and out of school,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Guaranteed funding for our early learning sector is a critically important investment in the future of our children.”

Ms Haythorpe said that funding fifteen hours per week of preschool for three and four-year-old children would provide certainty for parents and enable future workforce planning for teachers and other ECE professionals.

“It’s time for the Morrison Government to make this commitment for our children and families,” Ms Haythorpe said.