The goals of a good national system: placing priority on the wellbeing of children

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This chapter takes a child-centred focus on debates about the goals of a good childcare system, and takes as its particular priority the interests and needs of children in low-income and socioeconomically disadvantaged families and their right to benefit from participation in mainstream early childhood education and care (ECEC) services of good quality. Two recent influential Australian reports (ACOSS 2006; Press 2006) and the OECD (2001) adopt the term early childhood education and care (ECEC) to refer to formal prior-to-school care and education for infants and young children, covering services such as long day care centres, family day care, registered in-home care and pre-schools (or kindergartens in some jurisdictions) that provide sessional care and education for children one to two years prior to the commencement of school. I would add to this list, out-of-school hours care, of increasing significance as mothers in two parent and sole parent families increase their labour force participation when their children enter school, and as the implementation of welfare-to-work legislation from 1 July 2006 mandates at least 15 hours of paid work or employment-related activity for income support recipients once their youngest child is aged six. The argument here is predicated on the well-substantiated international literature which demonstrates that good quality early childhood education and care services are of benefit in improving the social/emotional wellbeing, and cognitive development outcomes for all children, particularly for low income and disadvantaged children – an effect which recognises children both as present citizens whose wellbeing should be paramount and as future citizens with respect to the enhancement of their educational and employment participation, often called their human capital (Lister 2004).
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Cass, Bettina
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Hill, Elizabeth
Pocock, Barbara
Elliot, Amanda
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