Today we are launching our new featured forum on Early Childhood Education with the release of the latest Taskforce report by Global Access Partners. Catherine Fritz-Kalish, Co-Founder and Managing Director of GAP, tells the story behind it.
I am extremely proud to introduce the latest report from the GAP Taskforce on Early Childhood Education.
This document is the result of several months’ work by a strong team of policy writers, researchers and experts in the early childhood education space, united by the common mission to improve access to quality early childhood education for Australia’s most vulnerable families and children.
GAP has been exploring early childhood policy for over a decade, tackling issues as diverse as the affordability and accessibility of childcare, paternal leave and the importance of high-quality early learning to the child’s life, health and later prospects.
Through this work, we were fortunate to meet and learn from such champions of the cause as June McLoughlin and Julius Colman at Doveton College, Elaine Henry OAM, Chair of the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, and Prof Frank Oberklaid from the Centre for Community Child Health at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.
However, three years ago a single statistic completely changed our perspective. We learned that one in five of the 300,000 children born in Australia every year are born into disadvantage. Many of their families are functionally illiterate, hampering their children’s education and future life course.
This shocking fact brought all the ECE issues we have grappled with into sharp focus. Children with poor early childhood experiences begin school behind their peers and may never catch up, remaining disadvantaged throughout life. In the context of broader GAP conversations around Australia’s economic productivity, we realised that this issue lies at the core of national prosperity.
As a result, we formed a new taskforce with the support of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, NSW Department of Education and NSW Family and Community Services earlier this year. Our brief was to review existing policies and best practices, notably those which link family, health, community and education services and benefit the whole family. Rather than call for more resources, we explored how the current pool of Commonwealth, State and local government funding could be used more effectively to improve social and economic outcomes for vulnerable children and the broader community.
Our discussions produced some stark conclusions. Above all, the system is driven by supply rather than demand, and this leads to a lack of parental engagement. The problem is most acute in unemployed families and so many services are least used by those who need them most. There is also a lack of adequate measurement tools to chart children’s preschool development, and the regulations governing childcare remain incomprehensibly complex.
The Taskforce identified 8 ways to improve the system. Our report calls for systemic changes, a stronger evidence base, pilot trials of holistic schemes, alternative procurement strategies, improved governance, better connection between services and the pursuit of stronger parental engagement to secure more uptake of ECE services.
I would like to thank Nick Morgan and his team at PMC for working with us over several months to develop this report.
On a personal note, as a mother of three, I have always been passionate about early childhood education and helping the disadvantaged. GAP will continue pursuing the cause of early childhood education by working to implement the Taskforce’s recommendations, and I hope to see them realised in the near future.
Catherine Fritz-Kalish is co-founder and Managing Director of Global Access Partners (GAP) – a proactive and influential network which initiates high-level discussions at the cutting edge of the most pressing commercial, social and global issues of today. Catherine's broad business experience includes coordination of a number of international initiatives for the SME unit of the OECD (Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development) at headquarters in Paris, marketing and brand management within all seven divisions of the George Weston Foods Group, and working within the TCG Group of Companies in the area of start-up incubator establishment.