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Coming soon: Free three-year-old preschool

CMTEDD Preschool June 2023

Free three-year-old preschool will be available to all Canberra families for one day per week (300 hours per year) from the start of 2024.

Delivered through participating Early Childhood and Education Care (ECEC) services, the funding of more than $50 million over four years is the biggest investment in the early childhood education sector to date.

This investment will provide a saving of $1,329 for the average family with a three-year-old. Equitable access to quality, play-based early learning is a powerful way to support children’s learning, wellbeing, and development, and it has life-long benefits.

This initiative is being delivered as a key part of Set up for Success: an Early Childhood Strategy for the ACT.

Further information for families and ECEC providers will be available shortly. We invite you to check back in with this page soon.

Access to quality, play-based early learning is a powerful way to support children’s learning, wellbeing, and development, and it has life-long benefits. High quality early childhood education plays a critical role in supporting children to learn and thrive.

Children who participate in quality early learning programs are more likely to:

  • make a successful transition to school
  • stay longer in school
  • continue to further education
  • fully participate in employment and community life as adults.

In a preschool program, your three-year-old will participate in a play-based learning program aligned to the national Early Years Learning Framework and delivered under the National Quality Framework.

Play is an important aspect of early learning that helps children to develop imagination, social, communication, language, and physical skills which sets them up for success later in life.

When will I be able to enrol my child in three-year-old preschool?

Enrolments for this program will not open the same way as enrolments for four-year-old preschool. Instead, children will be eligible if they have turned three years on or before 30 April 2024, and are enrolled at a participating ECEC service accessing the Child Care Subsidy (i.e. a Long Day Care service or a non-government preschool). ECEC providers will need to first partner with the ACT Government to deliver three-year-old preschool. This partnering process will happen in the second half of 2023.

How will I know if my child is eligible?

Children must turn 3 years of age on or before 30 April 2024 to be eligible for three-year-old preschool in 2024. This timing lines up with eligibility for 4-year-old preschool the following year, ensuring all children have access to a full year on 3 year old and 4 year old preschool. Their families must be eligible for and be accessing the Child Care Subsidy External Link, and be residents of the ACT.

Do I need to seek a rebate from the Government for this service?

No. You will not need to pay a fee for the free 300 hours. This rebate will be claimed by your ECEC provider though the ACT Government if they are partnered with the government to deliver the program.

How will I know if my child’s ECEC is a partnered provider for this program?

All ECECs will be invited to join the program in the second half of 2023. A list of partnered providers will be available on the Directorate website by the end of the year. This information will be updated as new providers join the program over time. If your child is already attending an ECEC, once the arrangements are in place, they will also be able to tell you if they are a partnered provider. If so, the gap fee paid on your behalf will also be included on your fee statement.

What is the difference between my usual ECEC (or ‘childcare’) arrangements and this program?

Participating ECEC providers will ensure the preschool program is delivered by a degree qualified Early Childhood Teacher, with an option for this to be a phased approach recognising the current workforce shortages.

My child attends ECEC for more than one day, what will be expected on other days?

Children will continue to engage in the quality play-based early learning program that your ECEC service is already delivering. Families will continue to pay your usual daily rate for any additional days your child attends.

If I wish to enrol them for additional hours, do I have to pay for them?

Yes. Additional hours will need to be paid for and can be accessed through your ECEC provider.

If my child already participates in the current targeted program for priority three-year-olds will this give them an additional day?

No. your child will be able to access either the 1 free day or the 2 free days, depending on their eligibility.

Can they do this program in an ACT public preschool?

No. ACT public preschools are for children 4 years and over with the same eligibility date of turning 4 by 30 April.

The ACT Government can’t deliver free three-year-old preschool without the support of our ECEC sector and the ECEC profession. That is why the ACT Government is also:

  • Delivering a comprehensive survey of workforce qualifications, capacity and capability, and service capacity.
  • Establishing a professional learning and resource portal for ECEC services to access curated quality professional learning and development resources.
  • Establishing a Professional Learning Network for engaging with other educators and to establish collaborative learning communities across the Territory for the first time.
  • Delivering a suite of investments in early childhood educator training and qualifications, and
  • Providing scholarships for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educators working in Koori Preschool.

How do ECEC providers partner with the ACT Government to deliver free three-year-old preschool? What do I need to do to become a service provider?

ECEC providers will need to first partner with the ACT Government to deliver three-year-old preschool. This process will happen in the second half of 2023. ECEC providers will shortly be invited to an industry information session.

What will be required of partnered ECEC providers?

In order to be a provider of the three-year-old preschool program, you must meet eligibility criteria including quality parameters. This includes being an Approved Service Provider under the National Quality Framework, and Meeting or Exceeding the National Quality Standards for Governance and Leadership and Educational Programs and Practice. The preschool program will need to be delivered by a degree qualified Early Childhood Teacher. This may be in a phased approach, noting current workforce shortages.

How will the ACT Government ensure the funding is used for quality preschool for three-year-olds?

ECEC providers receiving funding through the program will be required to demonstrate the following aspects:

  • quality improvement processes, such as focusing on quality pedagogy and play-based learning, to ensure children are receiving the best early education possible
  • enhanced workforce supports through strategies such as improved pay rates and conditions, and access to professional development and mentoring
  • reinvestment of revenue to continue to support children and staff.

I have staff wanting to upskill to become an Early Childhood Teacher what can they do?

Under Set up for Success, the ACT Government provides scholarships of up to $25,000 for educators working at non-government and non-school approved ECECs in the ACT wishing to upskill. Staff wishing to upskill can find out more about the program on the Education Directorate website.

If you would like to find out more email us at:

The ACT Education Directorate is now seeking expressions of interest from Approved Service Providers to participate as a Three-year-old preschool Partner Provider.

To register your interest, the Chief Executive Officer or Person with Management or Control should complete the Expression of Interest (EOI) form at the following link <> by Friday 25 August 2023.

Please note, completing this form does not guarantee and/or commit a service to participate. A formal invitation to participate will be sent to eligible providers in the coming weeks.

Prior to completing the EOI, please review the Interim Program Guidelines PDF File (453kb) and Deed PDF File (377kb). The Program Guidelines are interim as further information on the Information Management System will be added once it becomes available.

Please also ensure you are subscribed to the Children’s Education and Care Assurance (CECA) Alert. The CECA Alert is the main distribution channel of key information to ECEC providers and services in the ACT. Please send a request in writing to to register.

We look forward to working with Partner Providers to deliver Three-year-old preschool from 2024.

For more information, please contact the Early Childhood Policy team at