Madam Speaker, today I am providing an update to the Legislative Assembly on the
Phase One Implementation Plan for Set up for Success: An Early Childhood Strategy
for the ACT.
Every child deserves a great education and the life chances that flow from it.
Education has the potential to drastically alter life trajectories for the better. The
investment we make in the education of children and young people is incredibly
important and deeply rewarding.
The ACT Government launched Set up for Success: An Early Childhood Strategy for
the ACT in August 2020. Set up for Success is a nation-leading plan for early
childhood education in the ACT and was developed following targeted consultation
with educators, early childhood experts, children, and families. It is based on
overwhelming national and international evidence about the benefits of quality
Early learning is about setting children up to thrive. Every child starts life with a
different set of circumstances that impact on their development in their critical
early years. Improving access to high quality early childhood education that is
affordable is central to achieving this, as is partnering with community and health
services to ensure that the unique needs of each child are met.
Madam Speaker, when children participate in quality early learning, they are more
likely to have a successful transition to school, stay longer in school, continue to
further education, and fully participate in employment and community life as
I was privileged to work with key early childhood stakeholders to develop Set up
for Success, and the government continues to work with these stakeholders to
implement this strategy. Most importantly, we continue to work with children and
families directly. Hearing the voices of young children is a core part of developing
and implementing Set up for Success. I am grateful to everyone who has been, and
continues to be, a part of delivering this strategy – thank you.
As part of the commitment to provide a holistic educational pathway for children
from their early years until they turn 18, Set up for Success aligns with the Future of
Education: An ACT Education Strategy for the Next Ten Years. The Future of
Education is delivering an education system that supports all children and young
people to overcome barriers and to succeed.
Key achievements under Set up for Success
Madam Speaker, today I wish to present an update on the key achievements under
the Set up for Success Phase One Implementation Plan to this Assembly. The
Implementation Plan affirms the ACT Government’s ongoing commitment to the
foundations of Set up for Success, developed in partnership with the community.
The Government is currently delivering on the first phase of its commitment to providing universal access to free quality early childhood education for all three year-olds, by providing up to 500 places for priority children – those who need it most– to access two days per week of free quality early learning. Up to 100 places are also available for three-year-old children in Koori Preschools, to provide a culturally safe and supportive early learning experience.
Madam Speaker, this Government is committed to providing one day a week of free, quality early education for all three-year-olds in the ACT by 2024. This commitment is being implemented in phases starting with children who will benefit the most.
I am pleased to advise the Assembly that as at 13 April 2022, 431 priority three year-olds have been referred into the initiative. Since the initiative commenced:
• 353 children have accepted a place in a partnering early childhood education and care service
• 43 children have been referred and placement processes are underway
• 35 children did not accept a place in the initiative, but instead engaged in alternative pathways or moved away from the ACT prior to commencement
• 147 children are currently accessing early childhood education and care through the initiative
• 205 children have transitioned out of the initiative since it commenced in 2020, primarily due to starting four year-old preschool.
Last October, the ACT Government announced a $11.9 million package of investment towards delivering initiatives in Phase One of Set up for Success. This funding is to ensure this important work progresses and provides support to the early childhood education and care sector, as the community adapts to the realities of living with COVID-19.
Early childhood educators work incredibly hard, and it is important that everyone in the community understands the incredible value of this work. This government wants to make sure that educators are valued and that the system reflects this.
The Implementation Plan outlines the initiatives of Phase One and connects to the four foundations of Set up for Success.
Foundation One: A fair start for every child
Through the fair start for every child foundation, the government is:
• providing children with access to quality early childhood education that supports positive outcomes across their life
• working towards providing two years of quality early childhood education prior to formal school for all children in the ACT, and
• providing culturally safe, relevant and supportive learning for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
Madam Speaker, as part of the commitment to ensuring equity of access, the government has employed two Early Childhood Community Coordinators to further strengthen relationships with priority families, and support ECEC services and warm referrers across the ACT. Two Early Years Engagement Officers have also been employed to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to connect with Child and Family Centres, Koori Preschools and schools.
Foundation Two: Valuing educators, values children
Through the valuing educators, values children foundation, the government is:
• delivering 12 more Early Childhood Teacher Degree Scholarships to encourage more people to do an early childhood degree
• equipping educators with the skills to support children with diverse needs and experiences, including delivering a suite of resources in trauma responsive practice
• delivering more professional learning and coaching and mentoring opportunities, and
• recognising the important contribution of the sector’s workforce which also forms part of this Government’s commitment towards gender equity and the ACT Women’s Plan 2016-2026.
Madam Speaker, we are currently progressing legislative reform work to recognise early childhood education in the Education Act 2004, and developing an ACT specific early childhood education and care workforce strategy to support a sustainable and supported ECEC workforce here in the Territory.
Foundation Three: Every child has a story
Through the every child has a story foundation, the government is:
• designing systemic supports for ACT wide transitions to support collaborative approaches between early childhood education and care services and schools, that help share the knowledge of a child’s story, and
• fostering inclusive environments that embrace diversity so that all children feel safe and valued.
Madam Speaker, the government has delivered Preschool Pathways resources for families to help them support their child’s smooth transition to preschool in 2022, and has employed four dedicated Preschool Pathways Partners to work with ECECs and government preschools to provide coaching and mentoring supports for educators in transitions and inclusive education practices for children with additional needs.
A pilot has begun for an approach to effective transitions for priority three year-old children into four-year-old preschool. This pilot will inform the development of a territory-wide transitions methodology and framework to minimise the impact of transitions on children and families and give continuity to the work and relationships formed by early childhood educators.
Foundation Four: Working together for children
Through the working together for children foundation, the government is:
• building stronger system connections to help community services to connect with families through a ‘no wrong door’ approach
• embedding communities of kinship and care into Koori Preschool by valuing the voices and perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and
• considering how the ACT’s planning decisions can reflect the needs of children in the Territory’s growing communities.
Madam Speaker, the key achievements I have outlined today represent the success so far in implementing the first phase of this ten-year strategy. The impacts of Phase One will be evaluated and measured to understand the progress made, and to inform Phases Two and Three.
Set up for Success is helping to create an accessible and equitable early childhood education system, where the workforce is valued and supported to mature and excel, where children transition seamlessly between settings that welcome them warmly, and where systems wrap around children and families. This strategy provides a clear and evidence-based roadmap to get us there.
I want to conclude by again thanking all those who have been a part of developing this strategy and who are contributing to the implementation of Phase One. Early childhood education is one of the most powerful levers that exists for building and strengthening an equitable, inclusive, and connected community. Contributing to Set up for Success is contributing to this kind of community.