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A new report on “red tape on child care” gives Australian families plenty to worry about.

The Commonwealth Senate Select Committee report questions whether our early childhood education and care (ECEC) workforce should be qualified, ignoring mountains of evidence showing quality educators can change the course of young children’s lives.

Megan O’Connell, Director of education think tank Mitchell Institute at Victoria University, will warn early childhood leaders in Canberra today that Australia’s ECEC sector remains one of the least-understood and worst-supported areas in education nationally.

“There is no way anyone would question whether school teachers need qualifications to ensure children get a good education and we know that early childhood education is at least as important as school, so this suggestion is just unbelievable,” Ms O’Connell explained.

“Only with a quality education system, starting in the early years, can we lift outcomes for all children, and especially children experiencing disadvantage.

“Just last week we saw new evidence that many services are struggling to meet minimum quality benchmarks. Having experienced staff with the right kind of training is key to improving these results.

“Instead of looking at how to further handicap the ECEC sector by weakening its workforce, governments could look at ways to strengthen it like they are doing for the school system – things like mentors and paid professional development could help lift the quality of early learning.

“A challenge when considering these elements in ECEC is that we need a stable workforce to see the full benefits. And to secure this, we need both major parties to commit to ongoing funding for all children to access quality early learning.

“We must ensure we have qualified educators across the whole education system – from toddlers to tertiary – if we are to maximise return on investment in any area of education.

“It is especially ironic that ECEC qualifications have been questioned in a week where we saw heated public debate about whether aspiring school teachers should face strict entry requirements for university courses.

“If there was any question that ECEC is still thought of as ‘day care’ for parents instead of important education for children by some in the Senate, those concerns have been confirmed in the “red tape” report.

“It is at least encouraging that the Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, did not join the Senate Select Committee responsible for this report.”

Megan O’Connell will address early childhood leaders at an event in Canberra today and discuss ways to improve quality across the sector.