CHILDCARE SECTOR


Dr CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (14:55): My question is to the Minister for Education. How many job losses is the government expecting in the childcare sector as a result of the decision to change the ratios in long day care?

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER (Morialta—Minister for Education) (14:55): I thank the member for the question. For those who are wondering what she is referring to, the National Quality Framework into the childcare sector has had all states, with the exception of South Australia and New South Wales, having a consistent approach to ratios, whether the ratio is 1:10 or 1:11, indeed, in some circumstances. South Australia has now moved, with the support and concurrence of other states, to be in line with the National Quality Framework in that area.

This is an area where I think, to be clear, there are going to be no changes to government services. There are no changes proposed to government services as a result of this. There will be no changes in any preschools or children's centres as a result of this change. Indeed, I believe there will be a number of increases in jobs in this area as a result of demand growing in this area. I think we will see that in the whole childcare sector in the years ahead, particularly as we look to enhance the opportunities for traineeships in child care, which the Minister for Innovation and Skills is very heavily involved with, including in terms of funding to ensure that there is a pipeline of young people taking on the roles to fulfil the job opportunities in this area. That's one great opportunity.

This year, there have been further increases in expectations as a result of the National Quality Framework on qualified staff in childcare centres as well. I don't think that the change in ratios, which makes us consistent with the national setting, will indeed see enormous changes in too many individual centres, but I think I understand where the member's question comes from and I think there will be some centres that will be glad to take advantage of the opportunity to change in some rooms 1:10 to 1:11, but I would not anticipate that being an enormous number of staff changes and I would expect that that would be supplemented by staff increases in other areas.

But out of an abundance of caution I will take on notice whether there is any modelling that I am not aware of right now that has been done that suggests otherwise, but I am pretty confident that we are going to see more people working in this area in the years ahead than we have at the moment.