Universal Access to Early Childhood Education

What is Universal Access?

Universal access to early childhood education ensures that a quality, early childhood education program is available for all children in the year before full-time school (often referred to as preschool or kindergarten). The program is to be delivered by a qualified early childhood teacher for 600 hours a year, with a focus on participation by Indigenous children, as well as vulnerable and disadvantaged children.

Research shows that participating in a quality preschool program can significantly increase positive educational and life outcomes for children, especially those from more disadvantaged backgrounds. This is why the Government is committed to ensuring all children continue to get a quality preschool education.

Who funds Universal Access?

States and territories are responsible for the delivery of preschool. Since 2008, the Australian Government has made $3.2 billion available to states and territories through a series of National Partnership agreements.

The current National Partnership provides $840 million to states and territories to support the delivery of 600 hours of preschool per year in 2016 and 2017.

In May 2017, the Australian Government announced that it is providing $428 million to continue Commonwealth support for preschool throughout 2018.

This extension will provide funding certainty for preschools and long day care centres as the Government implements school and child care reforms in 2018.

Details of this commitment are provided in the National Partnership Agreement on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education.

Does my child have to take part?

No. It remains your choice about whether to send your child to preschool. The National Partnership ensures that preschool is available for all children in the year before full-time school. Participation in a quality preschool program will help your child prepare for school, for learning and for life.

Are there any payments available to families through the Family Assistance Office or Centrelink?

There are no payments made directly to families under the National Partnership as the payments are made to state and territory governments to support the achievement of this initiative.

Is preschool free under the National Partnership?

No. But under National Partnership arrangements, states and territories must ensure cost is not a barrier to preschool participation.  It is a matter for states and territories and providers to determine what cost, if any, will be passed on to parents for early childhood learning. Many states and territories already provide free or very low cost early childhood learning.

You can find more information about the National Partnership on the Department of Education and Training website.

Last updated: