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Early childhood costs will shut out families

19 February 2003

High early childhood education costs will shut out families who need it most

News today that early childhood policies could greatly increase costs suggests the Government needs to shift its focus from policies aimed at appeasing vested interests to policies aimed at the wider national interest, according to Education Forum policy advisor Norman LaRocque.

It has been reported that government officials estimate early childhood education providers could face extra costs of up to $102 million a year by 2007 and $158 million by 2012 to meet pay demands brought about by recent government initiatives that favour kindergartens over other forms of early childhood education provision.

Mr LaRocque said the reported figures meant that the increasingly popular independent education and care centres will bear the brunt of the costs and have to pass them onto parents.

Independent education and care providers grew 128% (from 32,000 to 73,000 children) from 1990 to 1998. This was 90% of all early childhood education enrolment growth in that period. By comparison, kindergarten enrolments grew just 0.7% in the same period and have fallen in the past few years.

"It's important to highlight that kindergartens are getting the bulk of the extra funding but make up only about 20% of the early childhood sector and have falling enrolments. Whereas, the centres that more and more parents are choosing for their children are the ones that will be hit hard by the government's plans," Mr LaRocque said.

"There are no substantive public policy reasons underpinning some of the key tenets of the government's early childhood policy direction. For example the 'public sector good, private sector bad' mentality that permeates much of government policy at all education levels would appear to be driven largely by ideology and narrow political interests.

"While vested interest groups have a firm hand on policy, what the country desperately needs is policies that will benefit the national interest."


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