Early Childhood Education and Care Policy

Overview of the concepts of ‘policy’ and ‘education policy

The term ‘policy’ refers to a deliberate system of basic principles used in guiding decisions and achieving rational outcomes. In other words, it is a statement of intent, and thus, can be implemented as either a protocol or a procedure. Notably, the governing body bestowed within an organization adopts policies generally. Essentially, policies are useful in subjective and objective decision-making (4Children, 2015). Noteworthy, policies assisting in subjective decision-making often assist senior management with significant decisions, which are based on a relative merit of various factors, and as a consequent, they are usually hard testing them objectively. On the contrary, policies assisting in objective decision-making, are operative in nature and as a consequent, they can be tested objectively. The term ‘policy’ may be applicable to government, groups, private sector organizations, and even to individuals (DfE, 2013). It differs from rules or laws, owing to the fact that whilst law compels or prohibits behaviors, policy simply guides significant actions aiming towards the achievement of desired outcomes. Moreover, it should be significant to note that policy may as well refer to the process of coming up with vital organizational decisions and this includes identifying different alternatives like programs or even spending priorities and thus, selecting amongst them, based on the impact that they will have. Policies are easily understood as either political, administrative, or financial mechanisms that are arranged, with an aim of meeting explicit goals (Family and Childcare Trust, 2014).

On the other hand, education policy refers to a set of principles, as well as government policies, within the educational sphere, and this is inclusive of the collection of rules, as well as laws that purposely govern the operation of various education systems. In other words, an educational policy is a past, or even an up-to-date statement or rather, a series of statements that aim at explaining, recommending or excluding a given course of action that ought to be taken in the running of a system of education (Brennan, 2007). Notably, these statements are often written. However, they can as well be presented orally. Essentially, education occurs in various forms and for various purposes in many institutions. Examples are early childhood education, universities, job training, graduate/professional education, kindergarten that runs through to the 12th grade, as well as two and four-year colleges. In this regard, it is worth noting that an educational policy can purpose to directly affect the kind of education that people engage in at all ages. Of importance to also note, is that fact that there are areas, which are subject to debate whilst putting into consideration, the concept of educational policy (Elliott, 2006). This includes the school size, school choice, teacher selection, teacher pay, curricular content, methods of teaching, school privatization, education and certification, requirements for school investment as well as infrastructure, and finally, the values, which various schools are required to model and also uphold. Notably, various issues in the education policy often address various problems experienced in early childhood education. In this regard, numerous institutes have focused their attention on analyzing the barriers that teachers, as well as young learners experience in schools (McLachlan, 2011).

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Overview of the origins of childhood education and care policy in Australia and the UK Australia

The Child Care Act 1972 was introduced in Australia in the year 1972, and thus marked the beginning of the involvement of the commonwealth government in the provision of childcare, inclusive of education. In addition, the agreement made in 1983 (The Accord), between the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the commonwealth government also triggered a significant major expansion of various childcare places within Australia (Australian Government, 2007). Before 1972, only a few childcare centers existed in Australia and by the start of this present decade, there was the convergence of three forces, which then purposed to place child education and care on the public policy agenda. Notably, the child Care Act 1972 ensured that the commonwealth government was able to fund child education and care, thus making capital, as well as recurrent grants to be available to non-profit childcare centers. The act implicitly purposed to promote quality through tying funding to qualified staff’s employment (Boston Consulting Group, 2008). Nevertheless, the levels of funding for childcare notably fluctuated in the years between 1972 and 1975, under the Witlam labor government and the Fraser liberal coalition government in 1975 and 1983. As such, this led to ongoing debates regarding the placement of childcare in the government policy (Brennan, 2007).

The significance, which the early years play in the establishment of the platform of children’s learning as well as achievement outcomes, was acknowledged at the national, as well as international levels. The then policy makers employed economic tools in highlighting the value that educational investments created, which yielded high returns for all the money that were invested (Brennan, 2007). The Child Care Act 1972 introduced programs, which led to the creation of various childcare centers, as well as other childcare services, which included family day care, and even programs that had the primary purpose in the education of young children, which included kindergarten and nursery schools. Notably, these programs were all intended to enhance the development of children and to support their wellbeing, plus also to aid in the support of parents through various ways, in and also out of their paid workforce (Bennett, 2007). Of importance to note is the fact that in the recent past decades, there have been a rapid growth in care of children, as well as childhood education in Australia, and this has been greatly contributed by the commitment of the commonwealth government since the year 2007. Essentially, the involvement of the commonwealth government was to improve quality and also to increase provision.

UK

The UK’s childcare programs have evolved from separate systems of ‘care’ and ‘education’ with competing interpretations of the purpose of the services, as well as differing definitions to the term ‘child.’ Notably, public provision of education (primary school) in Britain dates back in 1649, and at this time the republic puritans purposed to set up a total of 65 schools in Wales (4Children, 2015). Notably, public funding ended when the monarchy was restored and thus, schooling was maintained purposely by significant voluntary sectors until the year 1833. Notably, Infant, as well as nursery school also trace their origins in Scotland, where in the year 1819, a Wleshman known as Robert Owen came up with the ‘formation of character’ institution. IN 1870, there was the introduction of publicly-funded education, which became mandatory at 5 years. However, children that were 2 years were admitted to various state schools, when they mothers were expected to work in the local industries (Allen, 2011). Notably, local authorizes waived statutory admissions policy whenever a need arose. Having young children admitted in formal education institutions has then became an ongoing themes in the discussion of early childhood education and care in the UK. In the year 1873, there was the introduction of the first public funded kindergarten in Salford, which provided nursery education, parent education, baths, as well as meals rests (Borg and Stocks, 2013). Others followed, but then the domination provision form remained only in various state schools. In the year 1901, approximately a half of children aged 3 years olds in England, as well as a Wales were admitted. However, in 1905, when His Majesty Inspectorate indicated that the didactic schooling had to be regarded as unsuitable for young children, there was a reduction in the number of children in such settings (Allen, 2011).

In the course of the First World War, there was the establishment of more than 100 public schools. The centers served children between the age bracket of one to six. In 1918, the government introduced the Fisher Act, thus enabled local authorities to make provisions for nurseries, or help nurseries that were sponsored by various voluntary sectors. Nevertheless, many young children continued entering state primary schools. Notably, this initiative effectively marked the start of the separate care development, health, as well as education in the UK (Allen, 2011). It is worth noting that McMillan stressed on the significance of cleanliness, as well as fresh air, and on the same note, Maria Montessori came up with a physiological sensorial pedagogy, whereby, young children were expected to learn using their bodies’ physical actions. The Second World War also resulted into the expansion of various nursery places, and also introduced family friendly policies, which encouraged women to assume various jobs that men vacated for Armed services (Brewer et al., 2014). After this war, women were required to return home, and as such, most nurseries were closed down. Thereafter, the local authorities were then left to decide whether funding could continue, and whether programs could be administered by education or even health. The arrangement multiplicity that was characterized by the provisions in the UK was thus complicated by local decision-makings (Campbell-Barr, 2009). Moreover, family allowances also started when the war ended, and was replaced in the year 1975 when child benefit was introduced, whereby there was a direct-monthly payment that was made to parents, thereby, providing a safety net that could support all children that were born in the UK.

Background of the policy, recent developments, and its current content/status in Australia and the UK

Whilst Australia has been able to successfully expand the access to early childhood education and care in the year prior to the introduction of full-time school, it is evident that the policy of Early Childhood Education and Care has been able to do more on lifting quality. Australia has had an above-average proportion of children that are under the age of 3 years and are registered under the Early Childhood Education and Care policy (Brennan, 2007). Moreover, the policy has also enabled a faster growth rate in the proportion of 4-year-old children that attend preschool, skyrocketing and this was noted to be 53 per cent in the year 2005 and in 2014, it rose to 85 per cent. This was effective with the assistance of the National Partnership Agreement, concerned with the Universal Access to Early Childhood Education. However, it is evident that this policy is still behind, as compared to how it has been successful in the UK, German, France, as well as other Scandinavian countries, where it is evident that approximately 95 per cent of 4 year old children attend early childhood education care centers (Council of Australian Governments, 2009a). This is owing to the fact that Australia has a lower proportion of three year old children admitted in pre-school, which is at 15 per cent. However, it is clear that this figure is a reflection of the limitation of the current data collections, as it failed to include the large number of children (three year olds) that attend programs that are delivered by early childhood teachers, especially in long daycare settings. Moreover, it is significant to take note of the fact that based on investment, it is clear that considering a per-child basis, Australia has been ranked fourth highest of all the Economics Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in terms of public expenditure on pre-schooling, and this is highly driven by a lower ration of child-staff (Council of Australian Governments, 2009b). There are fewer children for every teacher in Australia, whereas in other countries such s Chile, France, Mexico, and China, there are more children per teacher.

In June 2011, it is evident that 2 million (52 per cent) of Australian children, under the age of 12 were required to attend one/ more childcare types. Notably, this higher level of use has since then created an important focus area for the Australian government, while considering access, cost, as well as quality of care, and early childhood education. As more mothers are required to return to their workplaces, there has been a great provision of early childhood services (Brennan, 2007). The significance, which the early years play in establishing a vital platform for the learning, as well as achievement outcomes for children, has been acknowledged both at the national and at international levels. The recent organization for OECD reports purpose to outline the significant commitment of the 20 OECD countries and this includes Australia, with the aim of developing early childhood policy, and also the assessment of quality, especially in early childhood services (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 2009). Notably, policy makers are increasingly employing vital economic tools in highlighting the value bestowed in educational investments, especially in the early years, which in return, yield the highest form of return for all the dollars that have been invested. Moreover, it is also worth noting that recently in Australia, there has been a shift towards the increasing utilization of formal early childhood education, as well as care services. The federal, state, as well as territory policy makers have purposed to respond with significant reform agendas, which have been designed with the aim of improving early childhood education and also care (Doctors et al., 2008). Overall, it should as well be noted that in the past one and a half decade, Australia has experienced a rapid growth in terms of early childhood education, as well as care provision, with a significant commitment from the commonwealth government, as evidenced in the year 2007.

Notably, the formulation, as well as implementation of the Early Childhood Education and Care Policy in the UK has devolved responsibility since the year 1998. Since then, the differences between Wales, Northern Ireland, England, as well as Scotland, in respect on the early curriculum in Education, early education funding, and workforce qualification have emerged. However, major pressure is pointed in the early education policy and childcare, for example around staff qualification, as well as the expansion of education, especially for 2-year-old children, who have the greatest disadvantage risk (Mathers et al., 2012). Arguably, Lewis and Campbell (2007) point out that observations regarding the effect of coalition government on early education policies in England are to a considerable extent generalized to the UK wholly. Since time immemorial, the English early childhood education in the UK differed from those in other European Nations, in various important aspects.

The UK introduced the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), which is a significant term that is defined in the section 39 of the Childcare Act 2006, of the British government. Notably, the EYFS is composed on the welfare requirements, as well as a set of learning and also development requirements that need to be followed by relevant care providers for children that are below the age of 5 year (HMT et al., 2004). The welfare, as well as learning and development requirements are not specified in the said act, however, they had separate orders. Notably, this legislation was effective in the month of September, 2008. Of importance to note is the fact that the welfare requirements applies to the UK wholly, but the learning, as well as development requirements only applies in England. All children care providers and this included childminders, kindergarten as well as nursery school classes, and nurseries were obliged to have a registration as provided in the Childcare Act, thus to be able to approve their operation legally (Heckman, 2006). In order for them to become, and also remain registered, they had to comply with the set welfare requirements, and also with the learning and development requirements in England (except in areas that were exempted).

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Moreover, the labor government in the UK introduced the universal early education, for children between 3 and 4 years (referred to as official documented childcare). This early education was free at the time it was delivered and a subsidy, which is a direct, supply side provider purposed to fund it. Since the year 2010, it is evident that the size of the universal early education was placed at 15 hours every weeks in the course of school term times, and this commitment was honored by the coalition, having been made by the labor government (Heckman, 2006). It is also important to note that the coalition also continually increased the offer made by the labor government of free education, which targeted children that were 2 years old and were unfortunate to live in disadvantaged circumstances. By the month of September 2013, it is clear that the provision was purposed to reach 20 per cent of all children of the age of 2 years although, the target was missed by approximately 30 per cent. Moreover, it should be noted that by September 2014, this offer was needed to be taken up by approximately 40 per cent of all children of the age of 2 years (Gambaro et al., 2014). However, the statistics that could confirm whether this kind of target was reached had not been published at that time.

Currently in the UK, it is evident that policy matters, which relate to the provision of early education as well as care have been overseen by various government departments including the Department for Education and Employment, Transport and Regions, the Treasury department, Health department, the cabinet, as well as the home office. Particularly in Scotland, Northern Ireland, as well as Wales, it is evident that responsibility is being shared between the social welfare ministries, and the education ministry (HC, 2013). Notably, the provision of early childhood education and care in the UK has retained a long-standing distinction between education and care. However recently, there have been the introduction of policy initiatives that emphasize on integration, and also aim at pulling the relevant systems together. It is worth noting that historically, the services provided to children up to the age of three were a concern of the social security department, whilst the department of education, as well as employment governed programs for children between the ages of 3 to 5 (Gove, 2012).

It is significant to take note of the fact that the UK government recently purposed to consolidate ‘care’ and ‘education’ and as such, it gave the education department a primary responsibility for early year in England (HC, 2013). Nevertheless, it is evident that other departments are continuing to work of various issues affecting children. Moreover, in the past, various governmental departments were using different methods in determining the participation levels of various provision forms. In this regard, the development of a comprehensive plan and coordinated data collection was considered a priority only in the recent times (Family and Childcare Trust, 2014). Notably, the available evidence makes it clear that most of children up to the age of three years, and those whose parents are employment or are in training are being cared for by the private sector, as well as childminders. However, three to four year old children are increasingly attending settling, specifically in the maintained sector. In this regard, it is significant to note that compulsory schooling is mandatory to begin at the age of four, specifically in Northern Ireland and age five in England, Wales, as well as Scotland (HC, 2013).

Organizational structure of England’s ECEC services

Organizational structure of England’s ECEC services

Contrast and critical analysis of the policy implementation: Australia vs the UK

Generally, the policy of Childhood Education and Care varies from country to country, based on the various factors, which include the age or children that attend different types of setting, provision, among other factors. Putting into consideration, these factors, first, it is evident that Australia offers integrated early childhood education, and care and education-only programs. These programs are available for children between the age bracket of 0 to 3 years, in various accredited childcare services, which include long day care, as well as family day care, in line with an educational program that is provided by early childhood educators that are qualified (Elliott, 2006). Moreover, this policy in Australia offers pre-primary education, or rather, preschool education to children between the age bracket of 3 to 4 years and this is also delivered by childhood educators in various accredited institutions. Clearly, pre-primary education in this country is based on a short duration, as compared to other OECD countries as children often transit to school at the age bracket of between 4 and 5 years (Harcourt & Keen, 2012).

On the other hand, in the UK, whilst putting this policy into consideration, it is evident that care arrangements for various children below the age of 3 years are facing high demands, yet have a short supply. Until recently, children of this age group were not provided with state funds, unless they were regarded to qualify for special services or were considered to be at risk. Additionally, there are local education authorities providing opportunity groups, especially for children that have been identified to be having special needs. This policy in the UK offers children between the age bracket of 2 to 5 years with playgroups, as well as pre-schools, which are available in specific areas and are sponsored by various voluntary and community groups, parents or even private businesses (EC/EACEA/Eurydice/Eurostat, 2014). Notably, most of them run for few hours although presently, just a few offer full-day provision. Owing to the fact that this policy in the UK places children between the ages of 3 and 4 years under part time and thus are only available during regular terms in schools, it is evident that childcare is required to meet their parents’ needs, especially those working or are in training. Most care forms are provided by the social sector and this includes the following. First is the private day nursery that serves children between the age bracket of 0 to 5, and thus offers part time, full time, as well as extended care (DfE and DH, 2011). The second is the day nursery that serves children between the age bracket of 0 to 5 year, who have been identified to be at risk. Third is the childminder who offers full day care at home and fourth is a nanny who provides fulltime or part time care to a child in a family home. Moreover, another kind of childcare is that, offered by neighbors, family members, as well as friends.

Secondly, in Australia, this policy entails public funding for children between the ages of 3 and 4 years, in nursery schools, as well as nursery classes that are maintained in primary schools and also academies. Additionally, places are only available in the children’s centers. All of the children aged between 3 and 4 years are entitled to a total of 570 hours, free provision every year and this typically takes 15 hours every week over the 38 weeks of the year and thus referred to as ‘universal entitlement.’ Moreover, since the year 2017, September, children between the age bracket of 3 to 4, and are having working parents are entitled to have a free nursery place, which is equivalents to 30hours a week, over the 38 weeks in a year (Logan et al., 2012). Notably, this entitlement was introduced in the year 2013, for approximately 20 per cent of the age group, and this extended to approximately 40 per cent in the year 2014. As for children below the age of 2 year, they do not receive any form of universal provision for the year. In this regard, eligibility can only be determined based on economic grounds, and also by other criteria, which include whether a child has special needs (McLachlan, 2011).

On the other hand, this policy in the UK is somewhat different as in most instances the cost for services for children between the age bracket of 0 to 3 years is fully incurred by parents. The provision available for this group of children includes the following. First is private day nursery in a workplace site, or a private day nursery. Secondly, is the local authority-day nursery. Third is the childminder, fourth is a nanny, fifth is a friend/neighbor/relation and sixth is a parent-toddler group. Moreover, for children between the age bracket of 3 to 5 years, this policy ensured that their providers are entitled to enough government funding, and this can be evidenced through the OFSTED inspection, in which curricular goals can adequately be met (DfE, 2013). Notably, in the recent years, it is evident that there has been a great reduction admission in the voluntary sector and this traditionally, has sponsored more activities that are play-oriented for children. It should also be noted that based on the UK policy, nursery school is often considered a state-funded school that often provides 2 hours to 2.5 hours every day for pre-schooling education for children between the ages of 3 to 4 years, in the course of the terms of the year. Of importance is also the fact that a nursery class that serves children between the ages of 3 to 4 years that is located in a state-funded primary or even an infant school often operates, in terms of part-time basis (DfE, 2012).

The future direction of this policy

Notably, the Early Childhood Education and Care Policy in both Australia and the UK will be able to create a more comprehensive, and also a coordinated early childhood system in the future for both countries. Notably, the progress that have been made in the recent years, concerning this policy in both countries have purposed to greatly increase material, as well as financial resources, which have been placed at the disposal of the sector of early childhood. This has led to the effectiveness of newer policies, and new energies have also been awakened to aid in the formulation and implementation of a more comprehensive early childhood education and care policy, especially for all children from the age bracket of 0 to 5years (Nuttall & Edwards, 2007).

Secondly, the policy will effectively expand the access to significant full-time provision for all the children in the two countries. Notably, this policy has raised relevant issues regarding access and equity. Particularly, it is evident that the governments in both countries have purposed to undertake wider ranging efforts, in order to be able to ameliorate the deleterious impacts of social, as well as economic disparities. Specifically, the governments support multi- and cross agency approaches, which can be of sure help towards addressing the disadvantages that characterize most of the current initiatives. This will be for the purpose of rendering the policy to be more effective, in order to establish more closer connections between early year initiatives and sure start, thus enhancing the possibility of providing family outreach, early education services, as well as childcare in the future (Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority, 2008).

Thirdly, in the future, the policy will be able to reconcile work, as well as family responsibilities. Notably, the national childcare strategies in the two countries provide significant initiatives, in terms of acknowledging the contribution of women to various workforces. The background report notes that for instance, for the first time in the UK, the UK government has been able to recognize the obligation of supporting working parents and in particular mothers (Comptroller and Auditor General, 2012).

Fourthly, this policy would significantly improve staff training, as well as terms of conditions. There are key issues, which directly affect the quality provision in the early years settings and this include staff training, as well as qualifications, recruitment and retention, and also pay and conditions. The policy aids in developing an integrated care system and the education provided purposes to involve new initiatives that aid in establishing comparable training systems, as well as working condition for early year staff, and this is regardless of their work settings (Cottle and Alexander, 2012).

Fifthly, this policy in the future would aid in broadening significant approaches towards early learning. Notably, as prominent in written, as well as spoken discourses on new early years initiatives, there is the significant need for children between the age bracket of 0 to 5 years to learn relevant basic skills. The governments in both the UK and Australia intend to ensure that all children gain the opportunity of establishing a significant and also a sound foundation for learning. Through this way, the policy will be able to attend to all the aspects of learning. Provide a flexible set of significant approaches in addressing the needs of various children coming from diverse backgrounds, as well as those with diverse styles of learning (DfE, 2012).

Finally, it can be foreseen that the policy would support quality assurance, as well as the inspection regime, with respect to diversity. Notably, having a generalized approach towards monitoring and evaluation, it might be difficult to facilitate the tailor programs, to various diverse constituencies, and evaluate early childhood staff working in various diverse circumstances. As such, the policy provides a significant approach of enhancing the validity of assessing children between the ages of 0 to 5years. Moreover, it will mandate that children will then be able to follow a specific prescribed teaching regime and whilst this new regime provides a significant opportunity for making quality assurance, as well as monitoring, the key would be ensuring that quality is enhances across all inspections, across geographical regions and also across all provision forms (DfE, 2013).

Conclusion

Based on the provisions in this paper, it is evident that the origin of the Early Childhood Education and Care Policy in Australia traces its roots back in the year 1972, upon the introduction of the Child Care Act 1972. On the other hand, the origin of Early Childhood Education and Care Policy in the UK traces its roots in the year 1649, when there public provision of education (primary school) in Britain and at this time the republic puritans purposed to set up a total of 65 schools in Wales. Whilst Australia has been able to successfully expand the access to early childhood education and care in the year prior to the introduction of full-time school, it is evident that the policy of Early Childhood Education and Care has been able to do more on lifting quality in the recent year. This is similar to the policy in the UK. Notably, the policy of Childhood Education and Care varies from country to country, based on the various factors, which include the age or children that attend different types of setting, provision, and forms of funding involved among other factors. It is evident that the policy differs in the two countries, based on the mentioned factors. Finally, the Early Childhood Education and Care Policy in both Australia and the UK will be able to create a more comprehensive, and also a coordinated early childhood system in the future for both countries. This is owing to the recent developments, as well as progresses that the policy has made in the two countries.

References

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Five states’ journeys toward comprehensive prenatal-to-five systems. Washington, DC

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Logan, H., Press, F., & Sumsion, J. (2012). The quality imperative: tracing the rise of quality in Australian early childhood education and care policy. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 37(3), 4–13.

Mathers, S., Singler,R., Karemaker, A. (2012)Improving quality in the early years. A comparison of perspectives and measures, London: Nuffield Foundation.

McLachlan, C. (2011). An analysis of New Zealand’s changing history, policies and approaches to early childhood education. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 36(3), 36–44.

Nuttall, J., & Edwards, S. (2007). Theory, policy and practice: Three contexts for the development of Australia’s early childhood curriculum documents. In L. Keesing Styles & H. Hedges (Eds.), Theorising early childhood practice: Emerging dialogues (pp. 3–26). Castle Hill, NSW: Pademelon Press.

Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority. (2008). Analysis of curriculum/learning frameworks for the early years (birth to age 8). East Melbourne, VIC: Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority.

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