720 ABC Perth - Child care, ACECQA

  • Assistant Minister for Education

720 ABC Perth – John McGlue
Date: 11 March 2014

SUBJECT/S:  Child care; ACARA

JOHN MCGLUE: We're going to take a change of tack now, away from Senate elections to something which affects all parents right around the country.  It's about child care and the quality of the childcare centre you are sending your kids to.  Well, how do you figure it out?  How do you know what the quality of the place the kids are going to stay at is going to be?
Well, one of the ways is that centres are being assessed by what's known as the Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority.  A bit of a mouthful but essentially this is a watchdog which gives a view on the quality of the childcare centre.
But the assessments being made by the authorities are not happening at a pace that pleases the government, which has given them a bit of a hurry up.  The Assistant Education Minister Sussan Ley, who's got the responsibility for child care, joins me on the program.

Welcome to you, Minister.

SUSSAN LEY: Good afternoon, John, good to be with you.

JOHN MCGLUE: What's the issue here?

SUSSAN LEY: The issue is that this rather complicated bureaucratic body which has state and federal governments in it undertook to have all centres assessed by the middle of next year and at the moment, on the track we're on, only about sixty-five per cent will be. 
So parents do need the confidence and, look, I must say that we're not talking about low quality, we're talking about high quality and we do have that in the childcare sector in this country.  But it's not reasonable for centres not to have been rated in time. 
There's several different ratings they can get but, importantly for the centre, the directors, the staff, the educators - they need to know how they're travelling, they need feedback and they need to feel that they're being listened to and an assessment in the rating system that is dragging its feet is not doing that.

JOHN MCGLUE: Why do you think they are dragging their feet?  What's the problem?

SUSSAN LEY: Look, they are - the assessment is very complicated.  I raised this at a meeting with state and Territory ministers and they all agreed, you know, we need to get a hurry on.  They're assessing against about fifty-eight quality indicators.  It's far too much.  It's about a fifty page report in some states - and I'm sure WA is about that size - and it's taking a long time for the assessment process to happen, the report to be written, feedback, et cetera, to be sought and so on and so on. 
I think that when you walk into a childcare centre, if you are a qualified assessor, and we've got good people in the West, I know, you can feel it, you can see it, you can - you know, you might have to measure some things but you don’t need to get carried away with too much red tape, documenting up to fifty pages, assessing against over fifty quality areas. 
I'm going to suggest that we narrow it down, that we bring it down to seven key indicators and we get on with the job and we give people the confidence - parents and educators the confidence - that the system's working.

JOHN MCGLUE: Sussan Ley is my guest on Drive, Assistant Minister for Education, and has responsibility for child care.  We're talking about the backlog, the problems, with getting childcare centres weighted.  There is an Australian Government authority which has federal and state governments involved in it and it's been charged with rating all childcare centres by the middle of next year.  It sounds from the minister like things are going a little slowly. 
She's trying to give them a hurry up and, Minister, it's sounding like you don’t think it's a matter of not having enough resources but really that this authority is really just a little bit too bureaucratic and maybe not fast enough to the breakdown, not doing the job fast enough.

SUSSAN LEY: Not doing the job fast enough and, look, it's not just the federal authority because it's states as well.  I know that we could all do with more resources but what I'm asking the federal authority to do is to drive a faster assessment process to encourage state authorities themselves to take less time.  In WA, fourteen per cent of centres have been assessed.  That's not very many.

JOHN MCGLUE: It doesn't sound a lot.

SUSSAN LEY: It doesn’t sound a lot and I know WA's a big state and there's lots of travelling but it is low.  We need to get this done.  We need to get the first assessments done.  If we're introducing a whole set of new rules - and the previous Labor Government did. 
What they did was they introduced the rules, they hung them out there and they expected everything to work.  Well, we're getting involved, we're driving it harder, we're making sure that we get to the targets that we need to get, that we give parents and staff at centres the confidence that the system is working.  We're not going to let this drift. 
I know it's tough and I know everyone would say we need more resources.  But I think that if we start from the premise that we've got good quality centres and we don't need fifty-eight separate indicators to be written up against; we need good people to go in and make assessments in a shorter period of time than they are doing, we can get the job done.

JOHN MCGLUE: Minister, thank you for your time today.

SUSSAN LEY: It's a pleasure.

JOHN MCGLUE: Sussan Ley there, the Assistant Minister for Education, and as I say she has responsibility for child care.

- ENDS -

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