Children the winners in Labor’s $1.75bn National Preschool and Kindy program

4 October 2018

Labor’s $1.75 billion commitment today to guarantee ongoing funding for two years of Early Childhood Education (ECE) for every child via its National Preschool and Kindy Program is a huge step forward in giving Australia’s children the best possible start to their education.

Currently, an agreement between the Morrison government and the states and territories means that funding for four-year old children to attend 15 hours of preschool per week is only guaranteed until 2019, causing great uncertainty for the preschool sector.

Australian Education Union Federal President Correna Haythorpe welcomed Labor’s commitment to fund fifteen hours per week of preschool for Australia’s 700,000 three- and four-year-old children, saying it would provide certainty for parents and enable future workforce planning for teachers and other ECE professionals.

“Labor’s announcement guaranteeing ongoing funding for two years of preschool for every child via its National Preschool and Kindy Program is warmly welcomed by the teaching profession,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The benefits of a structured early childhood education program are compelling and proven.”

“Preschool improves cognitive, social and emotional outcomes, and is important in providing a strong foundation for learning,” Ms Haythorpe said. “Children from disadvantaged backgrounds benefit the most from early learning, as it provides a strong foundation for them to close the achievement gap with their peers.”

“The Turnbull/Morrison government has refused to guarantee ongoing funding for preschool, choosing to extend ECE funding only for 2019 and only for four-year-old children,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Meanwhile it was Labor which introduced the initial universal access to preschool scheme for four-year-olds, so this is a natural extension of that scheme.”

“Labor’s commitment to guarantee ongoing funding for two years of preschool shows it truly values those precious first few years of a child’s education,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Under the Morrison government Australia ranks 23rd in spending on ECE as a percentage of GDP, well below the OECD average. OECD figures place Australia below countries such as Brazil, Mexico and the Russian Federation in terms of funding for early learning.

According to OECD figures, the Morrison government currently invests less than 0.5 per cent of GDP in early childhood education and care, well below the OECD average of 0.8 per cent of GDP. Countries such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland already invest significantly more – between 1.2 and 2 per cent.

World Bank data shows that in 2015, of the 207 countries examined, the vast majority provide two or three years of pre-primary education. Only 11 provide one year – Algeria, Angola, Bermuda, Gibraltar, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ireland, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Australia.

Ms Haythorpe said that Labor’s preschool funding guarantee would end uncertainty for teachers and parents.

“The number of years spent in early childhood education is a strong indicator of a child’s level of achievement in later stages of life, both in and out of school.”

“Guaranteed funding for our early learning sector is a critically important investment in the future of our children,” Ms Haythorpe said.