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Shortside: Open Letter to Senator David Leyonhjelm

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Early childhood education matters

Below is a letter we are sending to help Senator David Leyonhjelm to fill the gaps in his understanding of early childhood education with current evidence-based research.

The Senator claimed that educators are over-qualified for their job of “wiping noses and stopping the kids from killing each other”.

He suggested on Channel 10’s The Project last night that he could use his power in the vote on childcare funding reform to introduce amendments that roll back important quality measures including the need for trained educators.

We would like your help to ‘school’ the Senator in these errors.

You may wish to use the button in the footer of this email to forward the message directly to him at or share it with him on Twitter @DavidLeyonhjelm or Facebook

You may also wish to use this letter for references in your own message to the Senator.

We suggest that you copy any messages to the Federal Education Minister, Senator Simon Birmingham and Shadow Education Minister Kate Ellis MP to help them show their support for ECEC, and to Senator Pauline Hanson who has reportedly agreed with Senator Leyonhjelm’s comments.


Dear Senator Leyonhjelm

Where do we begin?

Your public comments this past week worry us. They show that you have missed seeing the evidence for what skilled and qualified educators to outcomes for children.

Here are just a few sources we think would help you to catch up.

  • An American Nobel Laureate for Economics, Professor James Heckman, is known for the Heckman Equation which proves the nation-building benefits of early childhood investment.
  • This UK study found that preschools with qualified staff created better quality programs leading to significantly better outcomes for children.
  • Studies in America and Australia have found similar connections between well-trained educators and improved results in children’s learning.
  • Professor Heckman’s most recent report shows high quality birth-to-five programs for disadvantaged children can deliver a 13% per child, per year return on investment through better outcomes in education, health, social behaviors and employment, reducing taxpayer costs and preparing the workforce for a competitive future.  Here’s a one page summary.
  • This paper by America’s National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, based at Harvard University, will help you to understand that quality programs in early childhood will amplify chlidren’s development and expand their lifelong ability to learn.
  • This report from the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth will also help you to see just how much is going on in children’s brain development in the early years, and how negatively that lifelong ability to learn is affected when children do not have access to high quality programs.
  • The Mitchell Institute at Victoria University has released a number of evidence-based reports, including this one on the significant benefits of offering two years of preschool rather than Australia’s current policy of one year.

We can offer you many more sources of highly credible research, Senator, all pointing to a much greater ongoing benefit for our nation if we continue on this path to higher quality in early learning.

We would be very glad if you would accept our invitation to visit some of our members’ services and learn for yourself the difference that qualified staff make in early childhood education.

Your comments suggest you are planning to use the current childcare benefit legislation debate to roll back one of the greatest strengths of early childhood policy in Australia: the need for qualified educators.

Please read more, ask more questions, visit more quality child care services and reconsider your view that early childhood education is nothing but women’s work, and poorly paid women at that.

Yours sincerely

Diane Lawson

CEO, Community Child Care Co-operative

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