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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As part of the 2017-18 Budget, the Australian Government is committing a further $428 million to continue Commonwealth support for preschool throughout 2018. This funding will be provided through a one-year extension to National Partnership arrangements.

This will benefit around 346 000 children across all preschool settings, and bring the total Commonwealth investment in preschool to $3.2 billion since 2008.

This decision provides much needed certainty for the sector and families who need to make decisions about work and family arrangements ahead of the 2018 school 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, depending on the 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 will 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 345 000 in 2016.

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, 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, long 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:

Who do I contact for more information?
Jurisdiction Department Name Website Phone
NSW Department of Education www.dec.nsw.gov.au 1300 679 332
VIC Department of Education and Training www.education.vic.gov.au 03 9637 2000
QLD Department of Education and Training www.deta.qld.gov.au 1800 454 639
WA Department of Education www.det.wa.edu.au 08 9264 4111
SA Department for Education and Child Development www.decd.sa.gov.au 1800 088 158
TAS Department of Education www.education.tas.gov.au 1800 816 057
ACT Education and Training Directorate www.det.act.gov.au 02 6207 5111
NT Department of Education www.education.nt.gov.au 08 8999 5659