Education is essential for positive outcomes later in life for children and young people. Most, if not all, children and young people have had their education disrupted by COVID-19. This disruption, now combined with the rising cost of living and other challenges for parents, as well as the severe disruption of the floods in regional NSW, has ongoing impacts for children and young people.
Before the pandemic more than one in six children in NSW were in households living below the poverty line. In some areas in Greater Sydney and regional NSW this is as high as one in four. The ongoing and future impact of missed learning opportunities is likely to be greatest for these children and young people.
What’s in the 2022-23 Budget?
- $5.7 billion over 10 years to introduce a universal pre-Kindergarten year of education for all children by 2030, including $40.2 million in 2022-23 ($53.4 million in recurrent expenses over 4 years) for planning, consultation, and early steps in the implementation
- $53.1 million ($281.6 million over 4 years) for Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) workforce development
- $15.5 million ($64.1 million in recurrent expenses over 4 years) to trial funding in 2023 and 2024 for three-year-old preschool programs in long day care
- $6.6 million ($27.3 million over 4 years) for developmental checks in preschools in both metropolitan and rural areas. Jointly delivered by the Department of Education and NSW Health through the Brighter Beginnings initiative.
- $5.2 million ($24.7 million over 4 years) to build data capability helping providers start new childcare services in areas that need them most.
- $28.3 million recurrent expenses for the North Coast Flood Recovery Education Support Package to support the recovery of schools, ECEC services and skills providers.
- $8.8 million ($54.1 million over 4 years) for wellbeing and support programs for First Nations students and for the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) for a Regional Operations Model and continuation of the Language and Culture Nests initiative.
- $25.1 million to continue to expand Careers NSW offering more comprehensive life-long career guidance with a view to supporting both adults and high school students.
- $22.4 million ($82.7 million over 4years) to continue Fee Free Vocational Education and Training courses targeting apprentices, trainees, and young people accessing training in priority qualifications.
- $108.5 million over 4 years for two new Institutes of Applied Technology in digital technology and construction at Kingswood and Meadowbank.
- $62.3 million for upgrades for TAFE NSW Kingscliff and Coffs Harbour including expanded course offerings in health care.
What does it mean for those doing it tough?
The introduction of universal pre-school for all children in the year before school is a crucial step in supporting all children towards their potential and mitigating the impacts of poverty and disadvantage. Essential funding for workforce development to support these reforms has also been provided.
A focus on fee free VET training and careers guidance, as well as funding for two new Institutes of Applied Technology, is welcome. Alignment with the successful pilot of the Educational Pathways Program (extended into 2023) is vital to support vulnerable young people into meaningful work.
Continued funding for important programs for First Nations children and young people is crucial, such as Pirru Thangkuray mentoring, Aboriginal Learning and Engagement Centres, integration of First Nations ways of being, doing, and knowing into professional learning and curriculums, and the Community Connectors program. The growth of the First Nations community controlled ECEC sector is also vital. The partnership with Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) to continue and expand their role in the provision of culturally integrated education and support for children and families to transition to school, is noted and welcome.
What is needed?
This investment in ECEC will help to mitigate the long-term impacts of COVID-19 and ongoing poverty and disadvantage on educational outcomes for children and young people. However, without support for children and their families to access stable long-term housing, benefits from this important change will not be optimised.
Likewise, sector reform in regards to ECEC wages is necessary to attract and retain enough workers to successfully implement the reforms. The NSW Government has indicated that a large portion of the $286 million funding package for ECEC workforce development will be available for services to look at improved remuneration and conditions, however it is unclear whether this funding will be sufficient.
This investment should also enable growth in the First Nations community controlled ECEC services sector in collaboration with First Nations peak organisations including SNAICC.
Budget responses from the sector:
- A Wave of Disadvantage Across NSW: Impact of the COVID-19 recession
- Youth Action Report 2022 - COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery: Young People’s Perspectives
- SNAICC - 2021 – 2022 Federal Budget Proposals: Early childhood education and care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
- SNAICC 2020 - Position Paper on Covid 19 Recovery Reforms
- Community Early Learning Australia - 6 Point Plan for Education & Care
Read our analysis on other policy areas below: