More than 1.3 million Australian children are now receiving better quality child care in centres across Australia, a year on from the introduction of the new National Quality Framework (NQF) for Early Childhood Education and Care.
Minister for Early Childhood and Child Care Kate Ellis said in its first year of operation the NQF is already providing children with better care, more highly qualified carers, and more one on one time with their educator.
“We know that the first five years of a child’s life is crucial to their development and we are absolutely committed to lifting the quality of child care to give children across Australia the best start in life,” Ms Ellis said.
“We are lifting the standard of child care across the country because we believe every parent deserves peace of mind when they drop their child off to child care, they are receiving quality care to a high standard.
“We also understand how important it is that we ensure every Australian family can get access to affordable care for their child to help prepare their child for a successful life in school and beyond.
“That’s why we have worked with state and territory governments of all persuasions to deliver the NQF to lift standards, keep child care affordable, cut red tape for operators and make child care a career choice for talented early childhood educators.”
Minister Ellis said a report by the Australian Community Children’s Services said the Government was on track to delivering the NQF.
“I’m really proud that because of our reforms every single centre across Australia is now providing better care to a higher standard, and that we are on track to delivering the NQF - the single biggest reform to child care in Australia,” Minister Ellis said.
“We are backing the NQF with a record $23.1 billion investment in early childhood education and care. This is more than triple that of the former Coalition Government in its last four years in office.”
The NQF requires all providers to improve services and provide families with better information. It includes:
• Improved educator to child ratios, so that each child gets the individual care and attention that they need
• Higher educator qualifications to equip staff to provide the kind of activities that help children learn and develop
• More information for parents through a transparent ratings system
“We understand that affordable child care is essential in helping parents, especially mums, to re-enter the workforce,” Minister Ellis said.
“That’s why we increased the Child Care rebate from 30 to 50 per cent of out of pocket costs and why we increased the cap from the Coalition’s $4,354 per child per year to $7,500 per child per year now.
“We’ve also lessened the impact on family budgets by paying the Child Care Rebate fortnightly as the bills come in rather than leaving parents to wait until the end of the year to receive their money.
“The steps this Government has taken to make child care more affordable has seen the number of children in child care grow to 1.3 million, representing an increase of more than 20 per cent since 2007.
“While the Federal Opposition have said they will roll back the standard of child care across Australia and take away measures to improve the quality of care we are absolutely committed to continuing to deliver this historic reform that will see children across Australia get a better standard of care.”
The NQF is being implemented gradually until 2020 to ensure that services have enough time to adjust to the new requirements and to keep costs low.
“I look forward to continuing to work with all state and territory governments to deliver better child care for Australian children and their families – and continuing to tackle our next challenge of reducing child care waiting lists,” Minister Ellis said.
A key milestone of 2012 was the establishment of the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA). ACECQA has been leading the implementation and the management of the NQF on a national level as well as educating and raising awareness of the NQF amongst the sector and the community.
The Early Years Learning Framework, a key part of the COAG reform agenda and the NQF has also been embraced by the sector. The Framework underpins Universal Access to early childhood education and includes a strong emphasis on play based learning, communication and language (including literacy and numeracy) and social and emotional development.