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.

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COVID-19 information for families and parents of preschool and kindergarten children

Preschool is primarily a state and territory responsibility and preschool systems vary across jurisdictions. Because of this, preschool-related information in the context of COVID-19 is provided at a state and territory level. Please see below for links to relevant information made available from your jurisdiction.

New South Wales

The New South Wales Department of Education’s website provides useful resources for teachers and parents. Their website will be updated progressively as further resources are developed.

Resources include learning materials for parents, and advice for to teachers who are supporting families to provide continuity of learning.

NSW Department of Education links:

Victoria

The Victorian Department of Education and Training’s website provides advice for early childhood services in relation to COVID-19.

The website includes information on:

  • Early childhood education and service operations
  • Health and hygiene
  • Administration and funding, including Kindergarten funding, Victorian sessional kindergarten package, and Kindergarten Inclusion Support and Preschool Field Officers.

The Victorian Department of Education and Training has established a dedicated coronavirus (COVID-19) advice line for early childhood staff. This advice line is available during business hours.

You can call the advice line on 1800 338 663 with any questions or feedback about the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on services.

The Victorian Department of Education and Training also sends regular updates to providers and services who can subscribe to these updates.

Queensland

The Queensland Department of Education provides information for services and families on its Early Childhood Education and Care website. The website includes early learning at home information and wellbeing for resources, as well as up to date COVID-19 information.

Regular E Bulletins will be located on the COVID-19 website, and will cover topics such as health and hygiene, how to support children through COVID-19, social distancing information and information on first aid qualifications.

The Queensland Department of Education will also be distributing a Social Buzz newsletter. This includes a range of informative social media posts for services to distribute through their social media channels.

The Queensland Department of Education has worked with Queensland Health to broaden the COVID-19 testing criteria to include early childhood educators.

The Queensland Government is providing additional support for dedicated preschool services, please refer to their announcement below for further detail.

For early childhood education and care COVID-19 related enquiries, you can email ECEC.COVID19@qed.qld.gov.au or phone 1800 454 639.

Western Australia

The Western Australian Department of Education’s Learning at home website includes useful learning resources, activities and information to help children to continue to learn and maintain wellbeing while at home.

Teachers have access to resources, training and advice for supporting students learning at home through the Department’s Connected Learning hub.

The Western Australian Department of Education has established a dedicated advice line for parents requiring advice or support. 

South Australia

Please see the South Australian Department for Education website for further information.

Tasmania

Please see the Tasmanian Department of Education website for further information.

Northern Territory

Please see the Northern Territory Department of Education website for further information.

Australian Capital Territory

The ACT Education Directorate’s Home Learning website provides resources for students and families to support in home learning. This includes Includes library resources, videos, a music lab and activity ideas for families.

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