THE HON PETER GARRETT MP
Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth
THE HON KATE ELLIS MP
Minister for Early Childhood and Child Care
THE HON BILL SHORTEN MP
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations
The Gillard Government will invest $300 million over two years to boost the quality of early childhood education and support workplace reform.
Minister for Early Childhood Peter Garrett, Minister for Early Childhood and Child Care Kate Ellis and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten announced the Early Years Quality Fund (EYQF) to help support the implementation of the National Quality Framework (NQF).
Grants will be provided to services in order to offset the cost of employing a higher qualified workforce and ensure quality education and care is being delivered while maintaining affordability for parents.
A new Pay Equity Unit will also be established in the Fair Work Commission, with an initial focus on the early childhood education and care sector.
The NQF requires early childhood education services to employ staff with higher education qualifications by 2014.
“We know that quality early childhood education and care is dependent on having a qualified and professional workforce,” Minister Garrett said.
“We have listened to the sector and to parents and we are pleased to introduce this fund to provide grants to help attract and retain qualified staff.”
To qualify for grants, Child Care Benefit approved long day care providers must be able to demonstrate a commitment to quality outcomes for children, including how their services will meet the NQF qualification requirements.
Eligible services will receive grants to promote productivity and increase wages for employees with a Certificate III by $3 per hour from July 1. There will also be proportional increases for staff across the existing classification scale.
“This wage increase for early childhood educators will assist in raising the professional status for our hard working and dedicated early childhood educators,” Minister Garrett said.
Providers will also need to commit to ongoing affordability for families by agreeing to restrain fee rises to reflect only actual increases in operational costs. This will ensure improved fee transparency for families, including the level of financial assistance provided by the Gillard Government through the Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate.
“We know it gives children comfort as well as parents’ peace of mind when a child has the chance to form an ongoing bond with their early childhood educator,” Minister Ellis said.
“We know that as a result of the National Quality Framework the early childhood workforce is more qualified and playing an increased role as early childhood educator.
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten said the new Pay Equity Unit would undertake research and data collection to inform matters related to pay equity under the Fair Work Act.
“The Gillard Government is committed to delivering support to some of our lowest paid workers,” Minister Shorten said
“This initiative follows the workplace reforms in Social and Community Services and Aged Care sectors. The Government has achieved significant outcomes in respect to pay equity, but is committed to do more to try to close the gender gap, particularly in female dominated sectors such as child care.”
An advisory board will also be established to oversee the development and implementation of the EYQF and will include employee and employer representatives.
“We have come a long way since staff were considered babysitters and they should be recognised as the qualified professionals they are,” Minister Ellis said.
“This fund will further promote our early childhood and child care priorities by making sure centres show a demonstrated commitment to affordability for families through fee restraint.”
As has been the case with new spending since the 2009-10 Budget, the fund will be offset with savings.
For more information on the EYQF visit: www.deewr.gov.au/earlyyearsqualityfund