Universal Access to Early Childhood Education

Universal access ensures that a quality preschool program (also referred to as kindergarten in some states) is available for all children in the year before full-time school.

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The Australian Government has committed $870 million under Universal Access National Partnership arrangements to continue Commonwealth support for preschool throughout 2018 and 2019. This funding ensures that every child has access to a quality preschool education for 600 hours (15 hours a week) in the year before school.

This investment will benefit around 348 000 children across all preschool settings in 2019, bringing total Commonwealth investment in preschool to over $3.7 billion since 2008.

Importantly, it will provide funding certainty for preschools and Centre Based Day Care centres as the government implements school and child care reforms this year.

Further information is available at the following links:

What is Universal Access?

'Universal access ensures that a quality preschool program is available for all children in the year before full-time school. The program is to be delivered by an early childhood teacher that meets National Quality Framework requirements, for 15 hours per week or 600 hours a year, regardless of service type. National Partnership arrangements include a focus on increasing participation by Indigenous, as well as vulnerable and disadvantaged children.

Who benefits?

All Australian children who attend preschool benefit from this initiative.

Research shows that participating in a quality preschool program can significantly increase positive education and life outcomes for children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Proof of long-lasting benefits of preschool can be seen in assessment results for Year 3 students, where children who attended preschool obtain consistently better results across all areas.

Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) data demonstrates that children who attend preschool are also less likely to be developmentally vulnerable across all five developmental domains upon arrival at school.

While attendance is not compulsory, preschool programs are delivered in a range of settings including child care, stand-alone preschools and school-based preschools, in order to meet the needs of working families, and will be accessible to all Australian children, regardless of their location.

Who funds Universal Access?

States and territories are responsible for the provision of preschool, with Commonwealth funding a contribution to 'top up' arrangements and ensure families have nationally consistent access to 15 hours per week, or 600 hours per year, in the year before full-time school. This investment has increased enrolments in preschool, which has grown significantly from an estimated 206 000 in 2008 to nearly 340 000 in 2017.

How is Universal Access linked to the National Quality Framework?

The Australian Government's universal access commitment is also supported by the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care. This framework includes a National Quality Standard to ensure high quality and consistent early childhood education and care in a long day care [1], family day care, outside school hours care and preschool services across Australia. The Standard underpins services' policies and practices in the areas that impact on a child's development and help families make informed choices about which service is best for their child.

Under the National Quality Framework, Centre Based Day Care and preschool services must have an early childhood teacher in attendance, with specific requirements varying depending on the size of the service.

See more on the National Quality Framework page of the Australian Children's Education & Care Quality Authority website.

Who do I contact for more information?

States and territories have responsibility for the provision of preschool or kindergarten in their jurisdiction. Please contact the relevant state or territory government departments listed below for more information:

Jurisdiction Department Name Website
NSW Department of Education www.education.nsw.gov.au
Vic. Department of Education and Training www.education.vic.gov.au
Qld Department of Education www.qed.qld.gov.au
WA Department of Education www.education.wa.edu.au
SA Department for Education www.education.sa.gov.au
Tas. Department of Education www.education.tas.gov.au
ACT Education Directorate www.education.act.gov.au
NT Department of Education www.education.nt.gov.au

[1] From 2 July 2018, Centre Based Day Care replaced long day care