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Universal access to early childhood education

‘Universal access’ is about all Australian children getting high-quality education in the year before full-time school.

What is ‘universal access’?

Universal access is when all children in Australia can go to a quality early childhood education and care program in the year before they start school.

State and territory governments in partnership with the Australian Government have promised to make universal access happen.

As part of universal access, an early childhood teacher will work with your child for at least 15 hours a week, 40 weeks a year, in a preschool, kindergarten, school, child care centre or some other setting.

Your child should be able to get universal access in your state or territory by mid-2013.

Studies have shown that when well-trained staff with the right qualifications plan and teach early childhood education and care programs, children do well – at the time and in the future.

Why universal access is important

If your child has a high-quality experience in early childhood education and care, she’s likely to do better at school. She also has a better chance of keeping up with her peers, staying in school and enjoying learning right through her teenage and adult years.

All Australian children should have this opportunity to make a great start to their learning and development.

The ‘universal access’ policy is designed to make sure all Australian children can go to a high-quality education program, so that they’re ready for school.

Do I have to send my child to preschool or kindergarten?

You don’t have to send your child to a preschool or kindergarten program. It’s your choice. But it’s worth thinking about how quality education in the year before full-time school benefits your child once he starts school.

If your child isn’t going to preschool or kindergarten, but you would like her to, you can find more information below about universal access in your state or territory.

Universal access in your state or territory

State and territory governments are responsible for education in the year before full-time school. Each state and territory government has agreed with the Australian Government about how it will make sure that children have universal access to high-quality preschool education programs.

This means that your child might have different options for education in the year before full-time school. Depending on where you live, he might be able to go to a program at a stand-alone preschool, a school or a child care centre.

Each state and territory will have to make sure remote families can access a program, which might include distance education.

Universal access costs

The Australian Government is giving state and territory governments money to help with the cost of putting universal access into action.

This doesn’t mean that preschool or kindergarten education for your child will be free. It’s up to states and territories and providers to work out what cost, if any, will be passed on to parents for early childhood education.

But it’s worth noting that many states and territories already provide free or very low-cost early childhood education.

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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