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Universal preschool: the rocky path to policy change 2016-176.1

2 March 2016



Education, in particular improved quality assurance for early childhood education, was a key area of policy difference during the 2007 Australian election campaign won by the Rudd Labor government. For Wendy Jarvie and her team in the Department of Education, Science and Training, it was the opportunity to align Australia with international thinking about human capital development, and OECD standards for preschool availability and attendance. Implementing the policy made early childhood education a high profile example of ‘co-operative federalism’, improved working relationships and new funding arrangements between the Commonwealth Government, which would assume a new national role, and the states and territories where a ‘pot pourri’ of different systems had evolved. Adding to the hurdles facing a new, largely inexperienced government, was the Global Financial Crisis which consumed much of the time and attention of Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, ‘super-minister’ of the newly created Department of Employment, Education, and Workplace Relations (DEEWR). Gillard also chaired the reform-focussed Productivity Agenda Working Group (PAWG).

This case includes a detailed teaching note. It provides suggestions for exploring aspects of policy development, such as the identification of a policy window, as well as the realities of policy implementation, in a ‘supercharged’ political environment. Equally, it can be used to explore the subtleties of managing a political transition, including machinery of government changes and the need to establish new and different ministerial relationships.

Authors: Trish Mercer
Published Date: 2 March 2016
Author Institution: Australian National University
Featured Content Length: 3
Content Length: 7
Product Type: Case with teaching note, Primary resources