Opening of 'Visions of Excellence in Family Day Care' Symposium, Melbourne

Speech
  • Assistant Minister for Education

[Check against delivery]

Good morning. It’s a pleasure to open this symposium.

I’m very pleased to be the Assistant Minister for Education responsible for the child care and early education portfolio, and I’m looking forward to working with the sector to make positive changes in this important policy area.

It’s great to be here speaking to you as Minister having spoken to a lot of you last year at the Family Day Care Association International Conference.

I have come to Melbourne today because I’m keen to engage with people around the country about our plans for reform.

Many of you have concerns about the red tape and regulations facing the sector at the moment, and I am eager to work with you to address these.

I’m excited by the prospect of what we can achieve together, particularly in improving results for vulnerable children.

I am delighted that the title of this symposium is “Visions of Excellence” because Australian families and children deserve nothing less. As professional, committed educators and service operators, you deserve nothing less.

It is important that, as a sector, you take the time to get together and come up with a shared vision of excellence. I would encourage you to keep that vision at the forefront of your discussions over the next two days, and in the longer term, into the work that you do every day.

Government’s vision for Family Day Care

The Government recognises that Family Day Care is a valuable element of the child care sector. It is critical that Australian families have choices available that meet their needs and Family Day Care is an important option.

Family Day Care offers both the practicalities and the peace of mind that families need to be able to participate in our modern, diverse economy. It offers flexible hours of care that can meet both traditional and non-traditional work or study requirements.

At the same time, parents can rest assured that their children are being provided with education and care in a safe, home environment. For educators, who have always been professional and who are now increasingly qualified, it offers a rich and rewarding career.

Family Day Care is growing. Between April and June this year the number of Family Day Care services increased by 15 per cent.

This is unprecedented growth for the sector.

There are currently more than 500 Family Day Care services in Australia.

This means around 79,000 families use Family Day Care, with about 28,000 educators caring for 160,000 children.

The sector as a whole has shown positive results in achieving high-quality standards compared with other types of child care and early education, according to a recent report released by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority.[1]

You should all be very proud of the gains that you have achieved.

As the sector grows we want to assist Family Day Care services in the provision of quality education and care.

I have asked the Department of Education to make resources available for Family Day Care services and educators so that you can be clear on your roles and responsibilities under Family Assistance Law.

To start this process, my department has written to each Family Day Care service and educator this week to provide advice on ongoing obligations, as well as providing clarity around some sector-specific issues that have arisen over the past 12 months.

It is important that a variety of child care options are available throughout metropolitan, rural and remote regions, ensuring access to services are where they are needed most.

In regional areas, Family Day Care and In Home Care account for a higher proportion of the type of child care used than in metropolitan areas.

In regional areas Family Day Care accounts for about 17 per cent of the child care market compared with 11 per cent in metropolitan areas.

Let me say again—it is vital these services are meeting the needs of families in the areas that need them most.

This Government is not about picking winners among the child care sub-sectors.

We want to get the best result for the children and parents of Australia, and that means a mix of child care and early education options so parents have choice and flexible options.

Significant change is necessary to improve child care and early education options for families, and we have targeted several important areas for reform.

Productivity Commission Inquiry

As you know, the Government has committed to have the Productivity Commission inquire into the child care and early education system.

At the heart of the inquiry is how to provide accessible, affordable and flexible quality child care and early education to enhance the choices available to Australian families that meet their needs in a modern, diverse economy.

The inquiry will focus on parents’ work and study needs, the needs of rural, regional and remote families, shift workers, out of pockets costs, and the needs of vulnerable children.

Family Day Care is an important part of the suite of options that Australian families should have available to them with child care and early education options designed to improve the day to day experience of families.

As is usual with Productivity Commission inquiries, there will be opportunities for public submissions and hearings. I encourage the Family Day Care sector to engage in this process and put forward your views and ideas to the inquiry.

My ministerial colleagues and I are working to finalise the terms of reference for the inquiry shortly. We are keen to see the inquiry report within 12 months.

Reducing red tape and improving implementation of the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood and Early Education

One of the concerns often raised with me is the implementation of the National Quality Framework (NQF) and the impact it is having on the child care and early education sector.

The Government supports the National Quality Framework and its goal of higher quality child care and early education for children.

I want to make it clear—this is not about winding back quality reform.

In fact, one of my key roles is to ensure that all state and territory governments, the sector and families understand the importance of children having access to quality early education.

I remain concerned by reports from parents and services that the implementation of the NQF is causing administrative and staffing problems, which are then passed on as cost increases for families.

I know that paperwork and jumping through regulatory hoops is not what any of you signed up for.

I also know already that many of you are concerned about the introduction of staff-to-child ratios. The Government will work with state and territory governments to review the implementation of National Quality Framework staff-to-child ratios to assess whether their implementation should be slowed to give the sector enough time to absorb the changes and ensure continuity of service.

I want to reiterate that I believe we need to have a deliberate, considered approach—as this produces good government and good policy. Wherever possible this means examining ways to streamline.

What we don’t want is Family Day Care services and educators simply closing up shop because the demands of new regulations and requirements are just too high. At the same time, we expect Family Day Care to provide quality child care and early education.

I’m keen to hear more from services and the sector at large about what issues they think we should take a closer look at to get the balance right. The rate we are examining services under the NQF is also occurring too slowly.

You deserve to know how you are progressing against the National Quality Standard, what areas can be improved upon and how successfully you are delivering programmes.

Having this feedback regularly is essential for an effective quality assurance system and to allow for continuous improvement.

Families also deserve the peace of mind that a service’s current rating is based on recent information.

As a priority I want to examine both the National Quality Standard and the Assessment and Rating process to see if they are delivering quality early childhood outcomes in the most efficient way.

In addition to work that can be progressed quickly to help streamline processes, during 2014 there is a formal Council of Australian Governments review of the National Partnership on the National Quality Agenda for Early Childhood Education and Care.

The review will be reporting in early 2015 and findings will be considered alongside those of the Productivity Commission Inquiry.

Greater industry advice and consultation

The Government will establish an Industry Advisory Council for the child care and early education sector, co-chaired by myself and a respected sector expert and leader.

The Advisory Council will provide informative consultation and recommendations on proposed legislation or policies affecting the sector.

This promotes informed government decision-making and increased transparency and accountability. It also promotes accessibility to government decision-making, an opportunity to debate and consider policy issues, discuss common problems as well as common opportunities and explore possible approaches.

While I cannot announce membership at this stage, you can be assured that the views of the Family Day Care sector will be represented. I am not surprised that many in the sector have expressed interest about participation in the council.

Early Years Learning Framework Translation Project

I'd like to take this opportunity to formally launch an exciting initiative in the child care and early learning space—the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) Translation Project.

The Australian Government provided funding of around $118,000 to Community Child Care Co-operative NSW to translate the Early Years Learning Framework into the 10 most common community languages. These are Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Dinka, Hindi, Korean, Spanish, Somali, Thai, Turkish and Vietnamese.

As we all know, the Early Years Learning Framework describes the principles, practices and outcomes that support and enhance young children’s learning from birth to five years of age, as well as their transition to school.

The EYLF is a core component of the National Quality Framework, the goal of which is to improve quality in child care and early learning services across the country.

While it’s important that child care and early learning educators from different linguistic backgrounds are able to read and understand the EYLF in English, it’s also a great opportunity to ensure educators can access the framework in their own language, to get the deeper understanding that only a document in someone’s native language can provide.

It will also help to ensure educators are better able to explain to parents from different language backgrounds the importance of early education and how parents can work more closely with the services to ensure their child gets the high-quality care and early learning they deserve.

I know that Family Day Care services in particular have a lot of educators with different linguistic backgrounds and I’m pleased to be launching this worthwhile project here.

The translated documents will be available today on the Department of Education website and I encourage you and any of your colleagues to access these materials.

Conclusion

Our goal is that Australians have access to quality child care and early education with minimal regulatory burden on services, so that they can focus on results for children.

I’m convinced that together we can make this happen.

This symposium is an important step towards this goal, as it provides an opportunity to explore current and future issues facing the sector.

I look forward to further discussions with you as we ensure the Family Day Care sector remains robust, sustainable and committed to excellence.

It’s my great pleasure to declare this symposium open. [Ends]



[1] Information taken from the second quarterly report released by the Australian Children’s Education and Quality Care Authority (ACECQA) National Quality Framework (NQF) Snapshot Q2 2013. This report was released in August 2013. http://files.acecqa.gov.au/files/Reports/130801-ACECQA-NQFSnapshot-FINAL.pdf

 

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