How can all children have adequate access to quality early childhood development and care?

What’s the Problem?

Cost is only one component of measuring whether Australia’s young children have adequate access to early childhood education. Other factors that affect a child’s access to early education include enrolment rates, the availability of places, the quality of programs, opening hours, physical locations and the responsiveness of services in meeting diverse child and family needs. There is also a question around whether there is equal access to early childhood education for families who are vulnerable or at-risk, or for children with disabilities or have special health care needs.

Even if childcare is affordable and enrolment rates are high, the quality of early childhood programs in care centres is also crucial in setting a child up for life. The skills we want to develop in our children can be amplified by high-quality programs that provide rich learning environments and age appropriate, play-based programs. Access to high-quality early education is also an incredibly powerful means of transcending disadvantage.

Given the 24/7 nature of today’s labour market, parents are also working longer and more varied hours. As such, the need for flexible and outside school hours care is also increasing. Although centre-based care is usually preferred because of the social and learning opportunities it gives children, this type of care usually lacks flexibility, such that many parents who work variable or non-standard hours, such as nurses and police, face difficulties in balancing childcare and work.

Lower rates of participation by children from culturally and linguistically diverse families have also been observed. The responsiveness of services in meeting diverse child and family needs is therefore important to overcome the barriers related to not only language, but often also income and perhaps concerns about the cultural appropriateness of services. 

Different areas of Australia have different obstacles regarding access to early childhood education and care. While inner and urban areas might face long wait lists at many centres, those in remote and rural communities might experience a shortage of service centres within travelling distances as well as qualified and experienced staff.

What are your ideas on how all Australian children can have adequate access to quality early childhood development and care?

Key Facts

Got an Idea to shape Australia's future?

Share your idea

Got an idea about reducing energy costs when prices keep going up? Or up-skilling workers when technology is threatening their jobs? Submit them here! Entries and voting close on 15 Dec.

Submit An Idea