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ECA are strong advocates of universal three-year-old preschool, as long as high-quality is consistent
across every service and setting. Universal access to two years of ECEC has a groundswell of
international evidence behind it, but only if it is of a consistently high quality irrespective of who
provides it.

ECA is pleased that the SA Government has promised a flexible and inclusive funding model across
the preschool sector, which aligns with our interest in all children being able to access wraparound
supports when enrolled in approved preschool programs.

ECA does support targeted and proportional additional investment for those children who need
extra support, such as those facing disadvantage due to poverty, family complexity and sociodemographic and cultural factors. However, well-funded universal approaches can offer benefits for
all children, including and especially vulnerable children, and remain our central goal of expanded
preschool provision.

A skilled, well-supported and adequately resourced workforce is critical to ensuring every child
reaches their full potential and is thriving and learning. Hence, ECA are pleased with the attention on
the workforce through the significant $56 million ECEC workforce fund.

One of the most significant issues facing the education and care sector is ensuring that there are
enough qualified teachers to deliver early childhood education and care (ECEC) in line with the
National Quality Framework, and preschool under the National Preschool Reform Agreement. This
makes achieving our shared goal of high-quality early learning opportunities for every child a
significant challenge.

There are well-documented difficulties in attracting Early Childhood Teachers (ECTs) and educators
to the ECEC sector, a trend that has been steadily increasing since 2019. While this is not unique to
South Australia, it is likely to become more problematic as SA moves to two years of preschool. In
addition to this, retaining skilled and qualified staff is also a challenge because a number of
educators working in non-government ECEC environments have different pay and conditions than
those working in the SA Government sector, often being required to work longer hours with fewer
holidays, and often more face-to-face teaching time without adequate opportunity to engage in
targeted and continuous professional learning opportunities. This means that the workforce is
undervalued, depleted, tired, and overwhelmed. Operationally, this can look like early childhood
teachers and educators not taking leave when they need it, inexperienced educators taking on
leadership roles without the necessary support and mentors available to help them learn their way.

Increasing attrition of the workforce and ongoing recruitment challenges mean that many services
are reducing their capacity in response. At the same rate, cost of living pressures mean that parents
are working harder than ever before to balance their work and care responsibilities. This
combination of high demand and low supply of a qualified workforce is very problematic for the
sector and families have been directly impacted.

Government investment in additional resources for building and supporting the ECEC workforce is
welcome, and ECA welcome the Office of Early Childhood Development’s commitment to engage in
extensive consultation with the peak bodies such as ECA, local communities, and a range of service
providers to ensure the investment is maximised. ECA also advocates for a coordinated approach
across state and Federal government investments to reduce duplication of efforts and sustained
resourcing of the workforce. The need to increase the supply of the early childhood workforce is in
tension with the imperative of ensuring that qualifications maintain a high standard and quality of
educator practice.

Just as the reasons for the workforce shortage are complex, solutions need to be equally multifaceted and the $56 million could be applied in a range of ways. They might include government
stewardship over the sector, addressing wages and conditions, removing the barriers to upskilling,
time for professional learning and training in areas they need it, access to mentors and support from
experienced staff to succession plan and become effective leaders, attention on the wellbeing of
staff, addressing the costs of training, professional learning and accreditation for ECEC educators.

Early Childhood Australia is the peak national advocacy body for children from birth to eight years,
their families and early childhood professionals. ECA South Australian Branch is represented by
Susan Jackson, Branch President and the South Australian Committee. ECA has an established
working relationship with the South Australian Government and seek to be closely involved in the
implementation of the reforms, leveraging our extensive knowledge and experience, strong crosssectoral relationships and national policy team that understand the complexities of phasing in
universal programs at scale.