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Long hours in care need to be high quality to benefit children

A new ANU study finding that the poor quality of childcare in Australia in 2007 meant children in care for more than 21 hours a week had poorer school results, supports the ongoing national reforms to improve quality, according to Australia’s largest provider of child care and early learning.

The report: ‘Development Risk Exposure and Participation in Early Childhood Education: How can we reach the most vulnerable children?’ makes a compelling case for the need to increase the quality of child care and early learning in Australia, according to Goodstart Early Learning.

Goodstart Early Learning Advocacy Manager John Cherry, said the report, which tracked children in care in 2007 prior to the introduction of the National Quality Framework (NQF) for childcare and early learning in 2010, demonstrated that poor quality childcare did children more harm than good, particularly when children were in care for more than 21 hours.

“The good news is that since 2007, Australian governments have been working together to raise the quality of child care and early learning through the National Quality Framework,” Mr Cherry said.

“The NQF is vital to raising quality and needs to be supported. Our children need access to quality early learning if they are to have the best start in life.

“For example, the NQF now requires every educator in a centre be qualified and at least one must be a teacher.

“A recent report by Melbourne University found attending preschool with a Diploma or Degree qualified teacher can add 20-30 points to a child’s NAPLAN numeracy, reading and writing tests three years later.

“There is plenty of evidence that high quality early learning and care can deliver long and lasting benefits for children in later schooling and life.

“Other developed countries are investing more in quality early learning than Australia.

“We have come a long way since 2007 in raising the quality of care in Australia, but we have a long way to go to catch up with leading developed nations.

“Federal and State Governments also need to do more to improve the affordability of accessing quality child care and early learning.”

Background to the report:

Dr Nicholas Biddle & Dr Robyn Seth-Purdie “Development Risk Exposure and Participation in Early childhood education: How can we reach the most vulnerable children?” HC Coombs Policy Forum & Social Policy Institute, ANU College of Asia & The Pacific, Dec 2013. Extract from the conclusions (NOTE: ECE stands for Early Childhood Education):

“What these results suggest is that the accumulation of negative risk factors, or the risk burden, that children bring to preschool and full-time schooling is the main driver of their early school outcomes. Preschool and LDC, as they were structured in 2008, were not able to mitigate the effects of these predictors and may even have widened social and economic variation in outcomes. MOst of the benefits of ECE that have been demonstrated in randomised controlled trials (that by definition hold the characteristics of the child constant) have come from very high quality ECE.” (p.58)


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