The youngest Victorians are missing out on the best start in life under a Labor Government that still fails to put funding into boosting early learning programs and attracting and retaining highly-skilled staff.
The 2021-22 State Budget highlighted a need for significant investment to fix some of the biggest problems facing Victoria’s early childhood education and care sector.
Over the past year, many kindergartens have suffered funding cuts as a result of Labor’s so-called Free Kinder program.
Kindergartens have reported struggling to make ends meet, but they won’t get a cent extra from Labor meaning they face being forced to scale back basic learning or make cuts to staffing.
Victoria’s early learning sector is facing grave workforce challenges, with huge levels of staff attrition.
There have been persistent calls from the early learning sector for a thorough workforce strategy to be delivered through this Budget, yet the Labor Government has failed to deliver. This is urgently needed so Victoria’s hard working and expert kindergarten teachers, and other educators, receive the respect and recognition they deserve, and ultimately are retained in the sector.
We also know that the vast majority of Victoria’s most vulnerable children – those who are known to child protection – are not able to access kinder.
Organisations in the sector report that for those known to child protection the figure is just 20-30 per cent, compared to 91 per cent of all Victorian kids statewide. Addressing this shameful lack of access should have been a major priority of the Budget.
Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Matt Bach
The Labor Government claims to be focused on early-years investment, but has failed to fix some of the most significant problems facing Victoria’s early childhood education and care sector.
There were 65 vulnerable children who died last year due to failures in government – just one child is one child too many.
Given Victoria’s current child protection crisis this Budget was a key, yet lost, opportunity to ensure equal access to kindergarten.
Without a plan to address the failures, Labor risks missing out on opportunities to fix the holes and deliver better education to Victorian kids.