Little evidence childcare quality boosts outcomes: report

admin | 杭州桑拿
4 Dec 2018

The report questions the quality reforms that were implemented under the Gillard government in 2012. Photo: Peter BraigThere is little evidence to suggest that the push to improve the quality of childcare will bring benefits to children when they reach school and bring value to the taxpayer’s dollar, a report from a free-market think tank says.
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The report by the Centre for Independent Studies questions the quality reforms that were begun under the Gillard government in 2012 and aim to see a reduction in carer-to-child ratios and a boost in staff qualifications.

Policy analyst Trisha Jha said the “jury is out” on whether or not the reforms will create improved outcomes for children. After doing a survey of international and Australian studies, Ms Jha said that to date, people have been “too optimistic” with the evidence.

Her report examines a recent study from the United States that suggests improvement in preschool outcomes “fade” by the third grade. She also finds that three out of four Australian studies examining the effects of carer qualifications on childcare reported no relationship to child outcomes.

“I think that what the government should be focusing on is taking a long, hard and sceptical look at the qualification requirements and the staff-to-child ratios,” she said.

Ms Jha said that research suggested that early childhood programs most benefited children from disadvantaged backgrounds. For the vast majority, it was enough for parents to drop their kids off at childcare, “and know that they’re safe and happy and being looked after, so that they can go to work”.

Ms Jha said that it was potentially inefficient to pay the childcare sector to perform educational and developmental roles to do things that parents would do anyway.

“If more money is to be spent on early childhood education, the focus should be on ensuring access to high-quality care for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, rather than spreading the expenditure to achieve marginal increases in quality for all children.”

The federal and state governments are currently undertaking a review of the national quality framework and in its draft report, the Productivity Commission suggested that carer qualifications and staff-to-child ratios could be watered down.

There has been significant pushback from parents on the issue of quality. An online survey by advocacy group The Parenthood found that 95 per cent of the 3000 parents surveyed did not want the qualification levels reduced for those working with children aged under three.

Ninety-seven per cent of parents surveyed did not support the suggestion to “average out” the ratios of educators.

A study by children’s peak body Early Childhood Australia on Tuesday found location was just as much – if not more – of a factor than quality standards in terms of childcare fees.

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