"Universal Access to early childhood education"
Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Office of Early Childhood Education and Child Care Universal Access to early childhood education What is universal access to early childhood education? Universal access to early childhood education is an Australian Government commitment to provide access to a quality early childhood education program for all children by 2013, delivered by a university trained early childhood teacher, for 15 hours a week, 40 weeks a year, in the year before formal schooling (often referred to as ‘preschool’ or ‘kindergarten’). The states and territories are responsible for delivery of preschool education. In each state and territory, different arrangements exist for the regulation, funding and delivery of early childhood education, and child care services differ. Therefore, the states and territories will use different approaches to achieve better access and greater participation, including addressing barriers such as distance, cost, cultural appropriateness and convenience for working families. 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 will benefit? All Australian children will benefit from this initiative. By 2013, every child will have access to 15 hours a week, 40 weeks a year of affordable quality play based education programs in the year before school. While attendance will not be compulsory, early childhood education programs will be delivered in a range of settings including child care, in order to meet the needs of working families, and will be accessible to all Australian children. Disadvantaged children will benefit the most from universal access to early childhood education programs, as currently they are the most likely to miss out. A recent government report suggests that around 30 per cent of all Australian children are missing out on early childhood education in the year before schooling (Report on Government Services 2009). It is estimated that this figure rises to over 40 per cent for Indigenous children (National Preschool Census 2007). Once implemented, this initiative will provide all Indigenous four year olds in remote communities with access to early childhood education programs. How is universal access being put into action? Each state and territory has committed to achieving universal access to early childhood education for all children in the year before school by 2013. Funding of $10 million has already been provided across all states and territories in 2008 for innovative projects to improve access to early childhood programs. A summary of the individual projects is below. The Australian Government is making a major investment in early childhood education so that all Australian children can have access to a quality early childhood education program in the year before formal schooling. This investment includes $955 million in funding, over five years to 2012-13 to states and territories. In addition, $15 million has also been set aside to develop better data and performance information for early childhood education in Australia. The national partnership details the state-by-state distribution of $955 million for achieving universal access to quality early childhood education in the year before schooling. The table below shows the distribution of funding. Table 1: Distribution of funding for achieving universal access to quality early childhood education in the year before schooling $ million 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 Total New South Wales 10.2 21.3 26.9 82.3 137.9 278.6 Victoria 7.4 15.3 19.3 59.1 109.5 210.6 Queensland 11.2 23.4 29.5 90.3 97.6 252.0 Western Australia 3.7 7.7 9.7 29.7 47.6 98.4 South Australia 2.5 5.2 6.6 20.2 30.9 65.4 Tasmania 0.7 1.5 1.9 5.9 10.4 20.4 Australian Capital Territory 0.4 0.9 1.2 3.6 7.1 13.2 Northern Territory 0.7 1.5 1.9 5.9 5.9 15.9 Total 37.0 77.0 97.0 297.0 447.0 955.0 In 2009, states and territories will initiate specific activities with the new funding to improve the accessibility, quality and affordability of early childhood education. These activities will vary in each state and territory to take into account the different challenges facing each jurisdiction. Do families have to wait until 2013 to benefit from this initiative? No. 2013 is the target date for ensuring all children have access to quality early childhood education but most families will benefit much earlier from the significant investment the Australian Government is making now towards this goal. Some families are already benefiting as state and territory governments are using the new funding to trial and progressively implement change. Benefits will differ depending on where you live, but can include: more preschool places accessible from a diverse range of services, including child care to meet the needs of working families; increased preschool hours up to a minimum of 15 hours per week, 40 weeks per year; enhanced quality requirements and information to parents about the quality of services. Does universal access mean that early childhood education is free? No. The Australian and state and territory governments have committed to work together to reduce cost as a barrier to accessing quality early childhood education. It will be up to states and territories and providers to determine what cost, if any, will be passed on to parents for 15 hours of early childhood education. Many states and territories already provide free or very low cost early childhood education. Can the existing early childhood workforce manage increased access? The Government understands the need to professionalise the early learning and care workforce and to increase the numbers of early childhood teachers and carers. Page 2 of 6 To do this, the Government has committed to investing $126.6 million over four years to train and retain a professional early childhood education and care workforce. This funding will provide for additional university places for early childhood teachers, the removal of TAFE fees for diploma and advanced diploma students of child care, and around 50 per cent reduction of the HECS-HELP debts of early childhood teachers who work in rural and remote areas, Indigenous communities and areas of high disadvantage. How will the Government ensure that quality preschool is delivered? The Government has committed $22.2 million over four years to develop a National Quality Framework, including rigorous new quality national standards for child care and preschool and a new ratings system. The Government is also working with state and territory governments, as well as childhood experts and educators, to develop a national Early Years Learning Framework. Emphasis will be placed on play-based learning, early literacy and numeracy skills and social development. The National Quality Framework will underpin universal access to early childhood education and will promote quality and national consistency in the delivery of early childhood education. How can non-government organisations become involved? Implementation of universal access within each state and territory strategies will require the close involvement of non-government schools, preschools and child care providers as progress is made towards the 2013 objective for universal access. A national roundtable consultation with non-government stakeholders was held in Canberra on 16 October 2008. A series of state and territory roundtable consultations are also being conducted. The roundtable consultations are an opportunity for participants to share their views on the approach to deliver universal access. Page 3 of 6 Summary of universal access to early childhood education 2007-2008 Projects State Project Title Australian Project Deliverables Government Funding NSW Preschool Access for $2 000 000 Thirty-five preschools will receive Indigenous Families increased funding to reduce or remove barriers to preschool access for Indigenous families. NSW Building Strong $500 000 Local needs analysis at 21 preschools Connection to develop plans and focused engagement strategies and publications to increase attendance of Indigenous children at preschool. QLD Piloting pre-Prep $1 850 000 Pilots for five outreach kindergarten mobile delivery service delivery models to address the strategies key barriers to universal access to early childhood education programs, supported by access to family support services in disadvantaged communities. QLD Strong Indigenous $650 000 A professional development program Communities – for teaching English as a Second English Acquisition Language to Indigenous children living in remote communities. VIC Improving Access to $1 800 000 Development and implementation of a kindergarten for range of sustainable procedures and disadvantaged resources to address barriers to children kindergarten participation. Twenty-five scholarships to attract early childhood teachers to take up employment for three years in long day care centres located in disadvantaged areas. SA Pilot an increased $1 100 000 Implementation of preschool for 15 entitlement to 15 hours a week in ten areas of need. hours of preschool in ten locations WA Increasing access of $450 000 Three additional Best Start for Indigenous children Aboriginal Families programs at three to early childhood locations. education Page 4 of 6 State Project Title Australian Project Deliverables Government Funding WA Early Childhood $400 000 Providing pathways for community Education and Care members in the Pilbara and Kimberley Workforce regions to obtain a degree qualification Development in early childhood education via a scholarship program and the development of an early childhood education teacher program to build on existing qualifications. NT Mobile Hub at $250 000 Development and implementation of a Wadeye mobile preschool from Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School, Wadeye, for children in outlying areas. NT Mobile Preschool $250 000 Provide a preschool hub and early Implementation childhood education programs in the Acceleration Top End Group School region for children in up to five outlying communities. NT Full baseline Map of $250 000 A map of distribution, quality and use Early Childhood of early childhood services across the Services NT to identify needs and gaps in service delivery. TAS Trialling 15 hour $251 000 Trial 15 hours of kindergarten in 13 kindergarten in 13 schools. primary schools TAS Indentifying and $104 000 Employment of two extra Early Years structuring the entry Liaison Officers to improve the of four year old attendance of Aboriginal families Indigenous children attending pre-kindergarten and for kindergarten kindergarten programs. TAS Connecting Families $44 321 Employment of a part-time liaison to Education officer from the outreach program Connecting Families to Education to identify children from disadvantaged families and encourage them and their families to engage with kindergarten. Page 5 of 6 State Project Title Australian Project Deliverables Government Funding ACT Access to Preschool $100 000 Where transport is a barrier to Education in the ACT preschool participation, transport Indigenous children and children from low socio-economic backgrounds to and from preschool. Targeted provision of integrated preschool and child care for children not currently attending preschool (an average of two days a week in Terms 3 and 4). Undertake a parent satisfaction survey for parents accessing support through the other ACT projects in December 2008. School Kindergarten Intake Survey in Term 1 2009. Page 6 of 6