A coalition-supported Early Learning: Everyone Benefits campaign, launched by The Hon Dame Quentin Bryce in Brisbane on Friday 6 May, aims to increase public understanding of the benefits of quality early learning for all children under five.
The campaign draws on insights from The State of Early Learning in Australia Report which recommends that investment in early learning is critical to Australia’s future prosperity. It follows several recent reports highlighting the decline of students’ academic performance in schools and the fact that the current national early learning participation rate is in the bottom third of OECD countries.
One in five Australian children start school vulnerable in their social, emotional or cognitive development and will fail to catch up, according to the Australian Early Development Census. Children who attend a high-quality early childhood program in the year before school are up to 40 per cent ahead of their peers by the time they reach Year 3 in primary school.
A report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) demonstrates the importance of early years investment. PwC estimate improved outcomes for children accessing quality early learning flow on to huge economic and social benefits ‒ $10 billion to our economy by 2050. In addition, studies show the greatest return on educational investment is made during the first five years with children supported in their learning making a more productive contribution to the workforce and society. Investment support for vulnerable children is also crucial to break the cycle of disadvantage.
The Work, Care and Family Policies Election Benchmarks paper recommends that all children access a minimum of two days of care and education regardless of whether or not their parents are working. Drawing on the ample evidence supporting targeted investment, the Early Learning: Everyone Benefits campaign is calling for the development of a national action plan to invest in early education and improve education outcomes for all Australian children.