Federal Government must commit to preschool funding

11 December 2020

The Education Council must commit to guaranteed permanent funding to enable all children access to 15 hours per week of preschool education in the year before full-time schooling.

Earlier this year, the Education Council was presented with the recommendations of the Nous Review that it commissioned into the Universal Access National Partnership. Recognising the success of the Universal Access National Partnership, it recommended that governments should guarantee ongoing funding and invest in Early Childhood Education (ECE) for the long term.

The Australian Education Union (AEU) has written to the Education Council urging it to recognise the importance of guaranteed funding for preschool, to not only support healthy child development but also to support wider workforce participation and allow the ECE sector to play its essential role in the post-COVID economic recovery.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said “Preschool funding must be a priority item on the agenda for the last Education Council meeting of the year, with the sector heading into 2021 with the same level of funding uncertainty that it has faced year after year since 2013.”

“The Nous Review was crystal clear - now is the time for all governments to commit to providing long-term funding certainty for the preschool sector.”

“This would allow longer-term planning for preschool provision, as well as providing greater surety to the early childhood workforce and for families.”

“Guaranteed ongoing funding is vitally important for the preschool sector,” Ms Haythorpe said. “The Nous Review confirmed that the Universal Access National Partnership has increased the proportion of children enrolled in preschool, with the proportion enrolled for the target of 600 hours increasing from 12% in 2008 to 96% in 2018.”

“We can’t afford to go backwards. With preschool funding in doubt beyond the end of 2021, preschool providers, early childhood teachers, educators and parents are looking to the Federal Government to provide ongoing certainty and opportunity for Australia’s children,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“A child’s education begins well before they start school. ECE is a vital part of the education continuum,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Children who go to preschool start primary school with better social and emotional skills, a familiarity with working alongside and cooperating with other children and are better equipped to learn,” Ms Haythorpe said. “Preschool also provides opportunities for learning issues to be identified and support mechanisms put in place earlier, which benefits all children and sets them up for success for life.”

“The skills and abilities that children develop in preschool lead to stronger academic performance throughout school life resulting in increased school completion rates and a greater likelihood they will undertake further education,” Ms Haythorpe said. “This leads to greater employment opportunities and income earnings over their lifetime.”

“Preschool not only sets children up for life, it is a long term investment with significant economic benefits for governments,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Public provision of ongoing high quality preschool education must be fully funded by governments to enable preschools to plan and invest in additional teaching time, support for children and professional development for early childhood staff.”

“It is imperative that the Federal Government supports the recommendations of the Nous Review for a more permanent funding solution for the provision of Universal Access to preschool for Australia’s children.”