There is no time for gloom in early childhood education. Demand for early childhood education places continues to grow and more new early childhood centres are opening.
A ChildForum survey carried out at the end of last year showed that uncertainty amongst early childhood centre and home-based operators was a big issue, and this reflected concerns around that time about the Government's ECE Taskforce recommendations and what else could be happening to funding on top of cutbacks already made.
But early childhood services are nevertheless getting on with their business and have shown awareness that financial planning needs to take into account changing economic circumstances alongside government funding.
In regard to earlier cutbacks in funding, affected early childhood services have made adjustments and there have not been large scale closures. There has been a definite trend toward employing cheaper and part-time staff over full-time staff in early childcare centres in particular. Also, the supply of teachers has caught up with demand and teachers now have little bargaining power to ask for better working conditions and higher wages than the going rate of pay.
The Government has been responsive to business concerns within the ECE sector (but so far not to concerns about quality apart from setting up two new working groups). In regards to concerns about the amount of red tape, it cut the number of licences an early childhood service with more than 50 children must have, allowing centres to have up to three times the number of children. The government has held back from making improvements in regulation that would impact financially on service budgets such as reducing the number of infants per adult in the regulations or lifting the minimum percentage of qualified teachers from 50% to 80%.