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.

The Commonwealth’s funding contribution through the National Partnership on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education (also known as the Universal Access National Partnership or UANP) supports states and territories to increase participation rates in preschool and ensure national consistency in the number of hours available.

Latest News

Extension of Commonwealth preschool funding for 2021

The Australian Government is providing funding certainty for preschool, having committed $452.3 million to extend the National Partnership on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education until the end of 2021. This funding ensures that every child will continue to have access to a quality preschool program for 600 hours (15 hours a week) in the year before school.

This extension, along with the funding already committed for the 2020 calendar year, provides continuity for the preschool sector as Australia deals with the impacts of COVID-19.

This investment will benefit 350,000 children participating in more than 11,000 preschool services, bringing the total Commonwealth investment in preschool since 2008 to $4.6 billion.

UANP Review

Nous Group has undertaken an independent review of the Universal Access National Partnership (UANP) on behalf of the Australian and State and Territory Governments. The UANP Review Terms of Reference are available on the Education Council website.

The Review will inform governments' decisions about future preschool arrangements. Education Ministers considered an interim report in December 2019, with consideration of the final report to occur at some stage during 2020 pending Ministers’ consideration of other priorities related to COVID-19.

Attendance Strategies for Early Learning

The Government has engaged The Smith Family to work with states and territories to identify communities with low preschool participation and to develop strategies that will increase preschool attendance rates in these areas.

The Smith Family provided an interim report to the department at the end of 2019. The project is currently paused and will resume once business returns to normal post COVID-19.

What is Universal Access?

Universal access aims to ensure that every child can participate in a quality preschool program for 600 hours in the year before school, delivered in accordance with the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care and the Early Years Learning Framework, in a form that meets the needs of children, parents and community, and at a cost that does not present a barrier to participation.

Who benefits?

The research is clear about the positive impact participation in a quality preschool program has for children. Quality preschool prepares children for school and gives them the best possible start in life.

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

Participation in preschool also delivers improvements in educational outcomes once children arrive at school, as demonstrated by NAPLAN results.

Who funds Universal Access?

Under the Federation, 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 school.

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. This framework includes a National Quality Standard to ensure high quality and consistent early childhood education and care in a Centre-Based Day Care (CBDC) (note: from 2 July 2018, Centre Based Day Care replaced Long Day Care), 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, CBDC 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