Another damning report on early childhood education has slipped across the radar. The ERO report was originally meant to be released in the middle of last week but the release was delayed, journalists ‘briefed’, and on Monday the release sunk largely without trace as an unimportant story.

In reality, Meeting Requirements for Children’s Safety and Wellbeing in ECE is yet another sad indictment of what is happening in the sector, following the hell-for-leather privatisation that’s occurred over the last decade.

The report shows that only 43% of services are compliant with regulations designed to protect our most vulnerable children. Breaches include owners who work in centres not being police vetted and problems with teacher registrations.

Needless to say, the centres that do best on meeting the regulations are those who are owned and/or led by registered and qualified teachers.

What is extraordinary is that all of the 206 services who were reviewed for the report had notice that they were going to be reviewed, and had notice of what ERO would be looking at.

In other words, even when given notice of being inspected, most centre operators couldn’t be bothered to meet the regulations.

Operators are basically thumbing their noses at the regulations – and they can because the consequences are negligible. A slap on the wrist with a wet bus ticket from ERO. Told to please pay back that money they obtained fraudulently.

There are no spot-checks on centres, even though spot-checking was one of the recommendations of the government’s own review of quality in ECE in 2012. Most of the recommendations have been ignored.

What will it take for the government to wake up to the systemic, structural problems in ECE. Another Cave Creek? Further plummeting down the PISA rankings as the consequences of mass, poor quality ECE catch up with us?

The government is so very, very good at the spin – over-worked, under-resourced journalists were told on this one, ‘Oh it’s only paperwork’ – that it appears government ministers are prepared to overlook all the evidence that tells us the sector is struggling.


The government’s secret plan to lift ratios in home-based ECE