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The Ten Principles for an early childhood education state

Early Learning Association Australia (ELAA) has brought together a group of peak bodies, service providers, community sector organisations and research institutions to develop The Ten Principles for an Early Childhood Education State, a framework to guide the Victorian Government’s reform agenda over the next 10 years.

The development of the Ten Principles coincided with the government’s consultation process around its Education State initiative.

This broad sector coalition is calling on the Andrews Government to ensure that the early childhood education and care (ECEC) system is founded on the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, makes new investments in a child’s early years (from birth to 8 years), and builds its vision of the Education State on a viable, high-quality, universally accessible and affordable ECEC system.

On September 14, ELAA hosted a wide-ranging sector conversation to discuss the government’s Education State agenda and the recently released Early Childhood Consultation Paper. That conversation brought together a diverse range of service providers, educators, academics and advocates to reflect on what we collectively believe the government’s priorities should be.

Our group is calling on the government to ensure that our ECEC system respects and collaborates with children, families, professionals and the wider community to ensure accessibility for all children. We also call on the government to make new early-years investments to maximise learning and development opportunities for children at an age when research demonstrates that the human brain has the greatest capacity for growth.

To support the Education State agenda, we also believe the government must act quickly and effectively to ensure that we are building on a solid and sustainable foundation.

At a critical time for service providers, there are core funding issues that need to be addressed in the short term to ensure kindergarten programs remain viable and affordable for families, especially low-income households. Similarly, long day care providers are keen to ensure that proposed reforms by the federal government to childcare subsidies maintain access to affordable, high-quality ECEC for as many children as possible.

The Ten Principles are much broader than any one segment of the ECEC system or any one immediate reform or funding priority. They reflect the fact that we, as a sector, accept the Victorian Government’s challenge to outline a vision of what a truly outstanding ECEC system should look like.

We hope the Victorian Government will use the Ten Principles as a framework to build the Early Childhood Education State and we ask all governments to consider these principles as a prompt to action.

We will continue to work in partnership with all levels of government and with families and communities to develop and implement an ECEC reform agenda that delivers excellence in early learning for every child.

The Ten Principles for an Early Childhood Education State
An outstanding early childhood education and care system:

1. Is founded on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and respects and collaborates with families and the community to ensure accessibility for all children.

2. Is “child-ready”, focused on the learning and development opportunities for children from birth to age 8, and supports families and practitioners in better understanding the knowledge, tools and practices that most encourage overall learning.

3. Builds on a solid, sustainable and universal foundation to ensure it is viable, high quality, affordable and accessible into the future.

4. Is evidence-based, integrated and positively, proactively and ethically engaged with children and families, as well as reflecting community expectations that governments will support and fund excellence in ECEC.

5. Is experienced by a range of community members, and reflects and responds to the expectations of children, families, communities, practitioners, researchers, policymakers, and governments.

6. Requires governments to play a strong leadership role – in collaboration with the sector – to share knowledge with the wider community about the critical importance of quality early learning for the nation’s social and economic health and wellbeing.

7. Facilitates greater collaboration between child-centred and adult-centred services; better understands and overcomes barriers that result in disadvantage for vulnerable children and families, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups; supports socially, culturally and linguistically inclusive practices; and expands inclusion support.

8. Is made up of sustainably resourced organisations, working within an enabling policy and regulatory environment.

9. Develops outcomes frameworks for learning, and builds integrated governance and reporting frameworks that are child-focused and support workforce professionalisation.

10. Broadly defines families in order to provide greater support and recognition of the resources and skills that families offer as a child’s first educators.

This article also appeared on Early Talk: ELAA’s blog.

Shane Lucas is chief executive of the Early Learning Association Australia.

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