The latest in early childhood news

In this issue … Minister for Education Dan Tehan makes an announcement for Victorian early childhood services in response to the Stage 4 lockdown in Victoria; Early Learning Matters Week (3–7 August) recognises the vital role of education and care in the lives of young children and there’s still time to be involved—see the Governor-General’s message and find out what others are doing here. The federal government resets targets and launches a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap; a national poll identifies difficulties as well as some positive experiences for families and children arising from the pandemic and explore what Stage 4 restrictions mean for children and families. The Smith Family releases a new learning tool to enhance children’s mathematical skills; a report finds children with disabilities during COVID-19 have been routinely ‘left out’; economists suggest the fall in Australia’s inflation rate may be due to ‘free child care’; early childhood education and care (ECEC) services are paying thousands of dollars for professional cleaning, yet still losing enrolments; and the Morrison Government announces a free phonics tool for children that parents, teachers and educators can access.
Find the latest in state and territory news and jump down to read what ECA teams have been doing.

Minister's announcement
Today, Minister for Education Dan Tehan announced some measures for Victorian early childhood education and care (ECEC) services that provide an increase to the Transition Payment and increase allowable absences.
  • All Victorian parents with children enrolled in early education will receive an extra 30 days of allowable absences in the financial year 2020/21 (on top of the standard 42 days) if they are unable to attend their ECEC service. And services can decide to waive the gap fee although this is not mandatory. 
  • All Melbourne service providers will receive a top-up payment of 5% in addition to the 25% Transition Payment they are already receiving. Services with an average CCS rate of less than 50%, and with attendances below 30%, will receive additional payments of 1025%
This follows measures announced earlier this week by the Victorian state government introducing Stage 4 lockdowns in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, Stage 3 restrictions in the rest of Victoria and changes to attendance for school students and early learning services effective as of Thursday 6 August. Watch Premier Andrews’ media conference here and read the full media release here.
  • The Victorian Government’s restrictions mean children, except for vulnerable children and those of ‘permitted workers’, in metropolitan Melbourne will no longer be able to attend childcare for six weeks, commencing 6 August.
  • Click here for more information on the permitted worker scheme and download the employer/employee permit form. At the time of publishing WebWatch Victorian government advice was that a form of 'Child care kinder access for permitted workers' will be available 'later today'. See more here.
  • Rural and regional Victoria outside school hours care (OSHC) services will also now receive the same additional funding that applied to metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire services under Stage 3 restrictions. See more information in state and territory news below here.
Read ECA's media release here and stay in touch via ECA’s Response to COVID-19 page where you can find updates to FAQs, Stage 4 lockdown information for Victoria’s early learning services as well as short video tips covering your questions on safety and hygiene practices in early learning settings. 

Early Learning Matters Week
beautiful message of support for early childhood educators from their Excellencies the Governor-General and Mrs Hurley kicked off Early Learning Matters Week 2020 (3–7 August). We thank everyone who is already taking part and those who have sent in photos, videos or messages. There is still time to participate, click here to see what other services have done and how you can get involved. Visit the ELM Facebook page too.
 Close the Gap agreement reset
The federal government has reset targets to tackle Indigenous disadvantages and launched a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, designed to reduce inequality and improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Read more here and read SNAICC’s media release here.

New findings

The Royal Children's Hospital National Child Health Poll found many challenges for families and children during the pandemic but also some silver linings. Families reported more time spent together yet less healthy eating and lower activity levels. Click here for the report or watch the video. And find an article here on what Stage 4 restrictions mean for families and children.

Let's Count parent bot

The Smith Family has launched a new learning tool on Facebook Messenger to support children aged three to five with their maths skills. The Let’s Count parent bot is an interactive platform that you can suggest to families for use at home. Activities include counting steps, ordering fruit by weight and comparing street signs. Learn more here.

Lack of inclusive education
Not even remotely fair: Experiences of students with disability during COVID-19, a new report finds that students with disabilities were routinely left behind during the first lockdown. It recommends where schools return to remote learning they must support children with disabilities to stay engaged with their peers in productive ways.

Inflation and 'free childcare'
The Australian inflation rate dropped 1.9% in the last quarter and some economists suggest this may be due to the government reducing early childhood education and care fees for families. Read more here.

Cleaning fees in ECEC
Early childhood services are paying up to $9000 for a ‘deep clean’ if there has been a known COVID-19 case in their service. Yet even where providers invest in an extensive, professional clean of their premises, it does not seem to ensure that families allow children to return. Read more here.
New free phonics tool
The Morrison Government announced a free phonics tool for parents, teachers and educators to access for Year 1 children. The tool will assess language skills and allow parents and teachers to get an understanding of children’s reading levels. Read more here.

In state and territory news...

In Victoria the implementation of Stage 4 restrictions means that from Thursday 6 August early childhood education and care services in metropolitan Melbourne should only remain open to provide education and care for those children whose parents or carers are ‘permitted workers’ and for vulnerable children. Children in families who do not come under either category will no longer be able to attend early childhood education for a period of six weeks.
Services in regional and rural Victoria including sessional kindergarten, which will be operating under Stage 3 restrictions from Thursday 6 August, can continue to operate with appropriate risk-mitigation measures in place (unless instructed by the Department of Health and Human Services to close). Find more details on the Department’s website
Every school student in Victoria will return to remote learning from today (Wednesday 5 August) after Premier Andrews announced the implementation of Stage 4 restrictions. Read more.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan has announced additional funding for OSHC services located within metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown. OSHC services will be eligible for the Additional Viability Support Payment—15% of their revenue—if they can show an attendance drop to 40% or less since 20 July 2020. This payment will be in addition to the existing 25% Transition Payment and CCS payments.

In the Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, Sally Sievers, has been appointed to act in the role of Children’s Commissioner and will perform the functions of office for both the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner and Children’s Commissioner. Read the full media release here.
Are you a teaching professional in Sydney? Sea Life Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Tower Eye and Wild Life Sydney Zoo are thanking frontline workers (emergency services, healthcare and teaching professionals) with free entry throughout the month of August. Find out more. Meanwhile, award-winning Forbes Preschool in regional New South Wales, made the front page of the local newspaper for Early Learning Matters Week preparations. Read more here.

Free partnerships webinar
Join our latest In Focus webinar, Relationships transforming into partnerships. Discover ways to use Be You to partner with families through purposeful and positive relationships. Book your spot.

The value of early education
One early childhood teacher stands back to examine what she sees happening since ‘free child care’ was launched. Find blogs on why early learning matters and more at The Spoke.

Leading wellbeing with Be You in Family Day Care
This event will explore how Be You can assist family day care service coordinators, managers and leaders in developing mentally healthy communities. See how mental health links to Quality Improvement Plans, service context and initiatives. Book your spot here, places are limited.

Self-regulation of emotions
The latest Everyday Learning Series publication, Self-regulation of emotions by Leonie Arthur, arrives in the ECA Shop today. What do children learn about emotions in the early years and why is self-regulation so important? Find a range of practical strategies that educators can use to support children in managing their emotions and behaviours.
ECA WebWatch—Issue 337, August 2020.