Public and independent schools would receive government funding to offer childcare services for young children, under a proposal floated by Canberra's Brindabella Christian College.
The college has urged the Productivity Commission to recommend that governments extend funding to private schools that run early childhood learning centres and that public schools be funded to move into the childcare market.
In a submission to the commission's inquiry into childcare and early learning, Brindabella Christian College chairman John Hunt-Sharman says there would be several benefits from having schools offer childcare services.
The college provides early childhood services from its Lyneham and Charnwood campuses, but Mr Hunt-Sharman said some parents using the centres were struggling to pay the fees.
"This is leading to women, in particular, having to give up or suspend their workforce participation to remain at home with their children,'' he said."This is particularly notable with professional women where they currently receive minimal government childcare subsidy arrangements and consequently a large portion of their salaries are being soaked up in childcare fees.''
The college believes that allowing non-government schools to count early childhood learning centre student numbers for state and territory funding purposes would be a cost-effective way of extending the services.
"The trial or implementation should commence with expanding the current education system to early childhood learning centres, with the subsequent current education funding funding arrangements applying to the early learning environment,'' Mr Hunt-Sharman's submission says.
"A whole of education sector approach should be considered, with the public sector also expanding into the early learning environment, when federal, state/territory educational budgets permit.''
The college believes the new model would improve education standards, reduce childcare costs for families, support workforce participation and generate greater commercial competition in the childcare sector.
The link-up with schools could encourage high-qualified teachers to work in early learning. "Non-government schools can develop salary bands for early childhood teaching staff that broadband into the same salary bands as primary school teachers without needing to increase early childhood education fees to parents as a result of eligibility to federal and state/territory school funding assistance,'' Mr Hunt-Sharman says.
According to an ACT Education Directorate submission to the Productivity Commission inquiry, there has been an increase in the number of early childhood educators who hold, or are working towards, Certificate III, diploma or degree-level qualifications in early childhood teaching.
In its submission to the inquiry, Woden Community Service suggests means-testing the Child Care Rebate and combining it with the Child Care Benefit.