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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 ensures that all children in Australia can go to a quality early childhood education and care program in the year before they start school.

As part of universal access, an early childhood teacher will work with your child for at least 15 hours a week for 40 weeks a year, or 600 hours a year, in a preschool, kindergarten, school or child care centre, or in some other early learning setting.

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.

Early childhood education and learning is more than just making sure children are ready for school. It helps children start developing skills they’ll use in all areas of their lives, for the rest of their lives.

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

Learning happens everywhere and all the time for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Even before your child starts an early childhood education program, he needs a stimulating environment with lots of different activities that give him plenty of ways to play and learn.

Do I have to send my child to an early childhood education program?

You don’t have to send your child to an early childhood education program like preschool or kindergarten. It’s your choice.

If your child isn’t going to preschool or kindergarten but you would like her to, your options for universal access might depend on which state or territory you live in.

Universal access to early childhood education 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 early childhood 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 must make sure remote families can access a program, which might include distance education.

Each Australian state and territory has a different approach to preschool. The names of preschool services also vary from state to state. Find out more about preschool in your state or territory.

Universal access costs

The Australian Government gives 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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Last updated or reviewed
15-09-2017

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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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