Government Overhauls ECE Regulations Easing Entry Barriers and Empowering Providers

Announcement from Associate Minister of Education David Seymour 15 April 2024

The Government is making legislative changes to make it easier for new early learning services to be established, and for existing services to operate, Associate Education Minister David Seymour says.

The changes involve repealing the network approval provisions that apply when someone wants to establish a new early learning service, and stopping the introduction of new person responsible requirements that were taking effect in August of this year. Providers and parents are best placed to decide where early learning services should be established. Where there’s demand from parents providers will follow.

Current network approval provisions introduced by Labour give government the right to decide where services should be. They also make setting up new services complex and inhibit competition.

This gets in the way of early childhood professionals delivering effective, affordable and accessible services to parents and their children. We have to understand what the purpose of regulation is, and ensure whether, on balance, regulation is the appropriate tool to use.

Mr Seymour is also proposing to revoke the National Statement on the Network of Licensed Early Childhood Services as soon as possible, to make granting approvals for new services faster, while the legislation is repealed. Consultation on this proposal opens today and runs until 5 May 2024.

The Government also intends to make it easier for service providers to ensure key supervisory roles are filled. Removing the new requirement for a higher level of certification will mean that persons responsible will not need to obtain a Full (Category One or Two) Practicing Certificate. The requirement had the potential to result in increased fees, reduced operating hours, or even closure for some services, due to a lack of fully certificated teachers. Services in rural areas and lower socio-economic areas were most likely to suffer due to staffing and funding challenges.

Teachers will still need a recognised teaching qualification and a practicing certificate, and all early learning services will still need to comply with current licencing requirements including all relevant health and safety regulations. Implementation of the requirements for changing the identity of the service provider on the service licence are also on hold following concerns raised by the sector. Early learning centres are a key part of our education system and are important for working parents who need somewhere to affordably send their children.

The Government has also signalled its intention to review all regulations governing the early childhood education sector, with the newly created Ministry for Regulation conducting a regulatory review. There is a need to strip unnecessary compliance and cost so early learning professionals can be focussed on education and care of children. After all, costs cannot all be absorbed – and they eventually land on the parents.