Matters of Public Importance
05 June 2019
It is wonderful to rise in the chamber this afternoon to speak on this matter of public importance (MPI), and I do so acknowledging the presence in the gallery this afternoon of some young people, some young students.
I am not entirely sure which school you are from or what electorate you are from, but you are very welcome amongst us because what we are doing today is we are talking about early childhood education and we are talking about the importance of education within the state of Victoria.
Young people—through you, Speaker—who are gathered in this chamber today are at the heart of what we are talking about, so you are very welcome amongst us.
As I said in my maiden speech in this place in December last year, young people in Victoria are not just the leaders of the future but the leaders that we need today, so my message to every one of those young students gathered in the chamber today is to say to you that for all those times that you have been referred to as the leaders of the future, please ignore that—your politicians need you to be the young leaders of our community today.
That is our challenge to you, and thank you so much for visiting the Parliament of Victoria.
On this matter of public importance I wanted to firstly acknowledge a personal interest in this particular matter.
I am the father of a 20-month-old daughter, Abigail, so the matter that we are discussing today, this matter of public importance that refers to early childhood education, is of significant importance to my wife and me.
It is a matter that is important to us.
What is clear—and many people have said this and much research is around this—is that the importance of the early years are now well-known throughout Australia and the rest of the world.
These years are a time when the brain develops and much of its wiring is laid down.
The experiences and relationships a child has, plus their nutrition and health, can actually affect this enormously, and positive experiences help the brain to develop in healthy ways.
I had the great pleasure of attending recently on behalf of the shadow Minister for Education the ELAA—Early Learning Association Australia—conference. Now ELAA, for those in the chamber who do not know, is the peak body which works in partnership with early learning providers and parents to deliver excellence for providers and parents for early learning for every child.
They have a diverse membership of 1100 or so service providers, including early years management organisations, kindergartens, local governments, day care services, government and independent schools and out-of-school-hours care programs. It was a fascinating conference.
I was there with the Minister for Education and his parliamentary secretary, and for part of my research for this MPI I went through some of their budget submissions.
For the last three years ELAA have submitted in their budget submission a number of items that they think are critically important. One of those critically important things is in their view a skilled, supported and valued workforce.
They said, and I quote, that they would like to:
“Improve attraction, recruitment and retention of high quality staff in a rapidly growing sector that is of increasing strategic importance to Government, families and the community.”
They went on and they said that they would like to:
“…develop and implement a workforce strategy: plan the growth of the teacher and educator workforce over the next decade value and support educational leadership and build the capacity for instructional support fund early years management services to mentor provisionally registered teachers to support them to become fully-registered fund professional development, ensuring a cost-effective focus on quality improvement and capability development measure implementation and use iterative and creative problem solving to better attract and retain staff.”
So they asked for that in their 2019–20 budget submission.
In their 2018–19 budget submission they asked for the same thing.
“Central to the quality provision of early childhood education is a skilled, supported and valued workforce. A multi-pronged workforce development strategy would sustainably raise standards and enhance the sector’s professional culture to deliver improved educational outcomes for children.”
And again in 2017–18 in their budget submission to this government they asked for exactly the same thing: Highly-skilled, collaborative workforce. ELAA said here, and I quote from their budget submission:
“The quality of the early learning workforce is pivotal to the richness of the learning experiences of children and their long-term outcomes. Supporting practitioners to grow and develop professionally will enable children’s needs to be met and better position the sector to meet future demands.”
I could go on and quote other ELAA documents where they ask for the development of a workforce strategy. I will not, because the point that I simply wish to make is that the government may have delivered outcomes in this budget for this sector.
However, they have not delivered upon the foundation for the expansion of this particular workforce, and that is the development of a workforce strategy.
This is the peak body who is asking them to develop this workforce strategy so that the people who are charged with the education of young people are best skilled and best placed to educate young people, and that has simply not been delivered upon.
In the government’s announcement ‘Kindergarten for all three-year-old children’ they identify—and I am referring here to the education.vic.gov.au website—a rollout schedule. They say that in 2020 three-year-olds in six council areas will be able to access up to 15 hours of kindergarten.
Now, in the time that I have had to prepare for this MPI contribution I have done a bit of research. I have done a bit of research on these six local government areas (LGAs):Buloke, Hindmarsh, North Grampians, South Gippsland, Strathbogie and Yarriambiack.
And I went to the most recent census data available, 2016, and I did some fairly basic research and I pulled up how many three-year-olds actually exist within these local government areas when the latest census data, authoritative data, was available.
I came up with a number of 705.
So across these six LGAs where this program will be rolled out there are in fact 705 three-year-olds living within these LGA areas.
I then did a little bit of further research, and I went to how many three-year-olds there are in the state of Victoria.
I pulled up the figure, courtesy of the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the 2016 census data.
The total number of three-year-olds in Victoria is 76,016. Wow!
So if you would believe the government’s posturing on this particular announcement, you would think that three-year-old kinder is being rolled out across the state tomorrow.
But no, the reality is quite different.
It has been rolled out in six local government areas, totalling 705 three-year-olds out of 76,016 three-year-olds in the state of Victoria.
It is 0.93 per cent of the three-year-old population of Victoria.
That is where it is being rolled out to.
Less than 1 per cent of the three-year-old population of the Victoria is where this government’s policy is being rolled out to in the first place.
If you believe the government’s posturing on this particular matter, you would think that it was being rolled out statewide tomorrow.
In the 90 seconds that I have left, and I really do not like the clock because I am just getting warmed up, I did a little bit of additional research.
I did a 10-year comparison.
The 10-year comparison looked at the amount of funding that has been placed for Victorian schools, both now and 10 years ago, and the research that I found—and I commend the Parliamentary Library for their assistance in this research as well—indicated to me that there has been a 200 per cent increase in output initiatives in the Victorian budget for the education sector in the last 10 years.
Then you compare that to the outcomes that have been achieved in that time.
In reading, year 9 has dropped from 94.7 per cent to 94.1 per cent.
In year 7, reading has dropped from 95.8 to 95.1 per cent.
In numeracy, year 7 has dropped from 96.5 to 95.9 per cent.
In year 3, numeracy has dropped from 96.5 to 96.3 per cent.
So for at least the last decade, at best, standards and outcomes in our schools have flatlined, whereas the funding infrastructure has increased by 200 per cent.
This just simply does not add up, and Victoria’s children deserve better.