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 15 hours per week or 600 hours a year, with a focus on participation by Indigenous children, vulnerable and disadvantaged children.

Research shows that participating in a quality, early childhood education program can significantly increase positive educational and life outcomes for children, especially those from more disadvantaged backgrounds. The universal access initiative aims to improve participation in quality early childhood education for all Australian children.

Who funds Universal Access?

States and territories are responsible for the provision of preschool. Since 2008, the Australian Government has made available in excess of $2.8 billion to states and territories through a series of National Partnership arrangements to raise participation levels and more hours of exposure to preschool education.

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 early childhood learning free under the National Partnership?

No. It will be up to 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.

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