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Child care quality in Australia

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Discussion Paper Number #84
Rush, Emma
Publication Date: 
1 Apr 2006

Summary report online, full report to order.

Excerpts from the summary: An excellent child care system is important to enable parents to balance work and family life, to encourage the workforce participation of parents, and to foster the development of Australian children. Recent public debate about the child care system in Australia has focused primarily on the availability and affordability of child care. This paper considers an aspect of child care that has received much less attention, that of the quality of the care provided. … In recent times, many anecdotes about poor quality care have been reported in the media. For this study, we undertook a national survey of long day care centre staff in order to ascertain to what degree such anecdotes reflect the quality of care Australiawide. A detailed questionnaire was sent to a stratified random sample of child care centres across Australia. We received 578 valid responses from child care staff. The sample was broadly representative of child care staff by state, type of centre, and level of qualifications held by staff. Sample bias was also checked by an independent survey of child care staff enrolled in either 'Certificate III in Children's Services' or 'Diploma in Children's Services' at selected TAFE colleges around Australia. The survey included a range of questions about key aspects of quality care: time available for staff to develop individual relationships with children; whether the centre's program accommodates children's individual needs and interests; the quality of the equipment provided for children; the quality and quantity of food provided; the staff turnover at the centre; and the staff-to-child ratios at the centre. Staff were also given an opportunity to comment in their own words in open-ended questions.