ACT News

Canberra families pay the highest childcare costs in the country

Canberra families using long day care services had the greatest out-of-pocket costs in Australia, shelling out on average 15.3 per cent of their weekly disposable income on care for one child last year, new data on government services reveals.

Canberrans paid a weekly median of $463 for childcare-centre based long day care in 2014, the most of all states and territories and above the nationwide median of $385, the Productivity Commission's latest report into childcare, education and training published on Friday shows.

Nationally, families spent 9.7 per cent of their disposable incomes on long day care after government subsidies.

The ACT had the highest proportion of children aged zero to five years attending a government-approved child care service in 2014, at 49.3 per cent, and in 2013 had the highest proportion of children enrolled in preschool in the year before full-time schooling continuing a trend from previous years.

But childcare costs continued to climb.

Family day care was slightly more affordable in 2014 with a median weekly cost of $398 in the ACT behind the Northern Territorians who paid $411 a week, but Canberrans were still paying more than the national median of $375.

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And the early childhood education services available had room to improve their quality.

Just 40.1 per cent of National Quality Framework approved services in the ACT met or exceeded the standards as of June 2014, the second lowest of all jurisdictions above only the Northern Territory on 18.4 per cent but well below the nationwide proportion of 62.3 per cent.

The worst performing area for the ACT was educational program and practice where just 44.9 per cent of childcare services met or exceeded the national quality standard below the national average of 71.4 per cent.

When it came to childcare staffing, Canberra slipped behind other jurisdictions as of 2013 with just 50.6 per cent of primary contact staff having a relevant formal qualification at or above certificate III compared with 74.1 per cent national, the lowest of all states and territories.

But despite the 2013 staffing qualifications, the quality of staffing was much higher in the ACT compared with other jurisdictions in 2014 with 91.2 per cent services meeting or exceeding the standard above the national average of 89.7 per cent.

Minister for Education and Training Joy Burch said the ACT government was committed to first-class early childhood education with the ongoing implementation of the National Quality Framework.

"Parents want peace of mind when they place their children in child care," she said.

"We will continue to work towards meeting the requirements of all National Partnership Agreements in the areas of early childhood education."

She hailed the increase in the number of early childhood primary contact staff with qualifications at or above certificate III from 47 percent in 2010 to 51 percent in 2013.

For primary and secondary education the report showed the ACT ranked first or equal first in 19 out of 20 areas of NAPLAN testing in 2014, down on 2013 when it did the same for all 20 areas.

Ms Burch said the report confirmed that ACT students continued to be among the highest-performing across the country.

The ACT was the highest-performing jurisdiction for reading at all year levels.

"Our young students have a particular proficiency in reading and science, which will serve them well in the future," she said.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students produced mean NAPLAN scores higher than the national result and the apparent retention rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students across all ACT schools from year 10 to year 12 was 64.2 percent, above the national rate of 55.8 percent.

"The ACT has done well but we can do more in closing the gap in educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students," Ms Burch said.

Overall the ACT had the highest apparent retention rate of full time students in government schools between years 10 to 12 in 2013.

Ms Burch said the government planned to find strategies to improve the quality, transparency, efficiency, access and equity of the vocational education and training sector in 2015. 

The report showed the ACT had the highest proportion of graduates completing a VET course at diploma and above levels.