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Early Childhood Strategy


We know that from birth, especially a child’s first 3 years sets the groundwork for their lifetime learning. Because of this we are making sure every 3 year-old can take part in quality early childhood education. This is a key part of  the Early Childhood Strategy (the Strategy) we are forming for the ACT.

The Minister’s discussion paper makes sure the Strategy focuses on four key areas:

  1. increasing access, equity and affordability
  2. enhancing the workforce and their qualifications
  3. ensuring seamless transitions from education and care to school
  4. maximising the benefit to children from money spent

An ACT Early Childhood Advisory Council, made up of members of the early childhood education and care sector has been helping us create the Strategy.

Early Education for Every Three-Year-Old Child

Minister for Education and Early Childhood Development, Yvette Berry MLA, announced that from the beginning of 2020, 3 year-old children who are most in need (families experiencing disadvantage and vulnerability, who we are calling ‘priority children’) will be able to access 15 hours per week, 600 hours per year of free, quality early childhood education.

This is the first step towards 15 hours per week, 600 hours per year of free, universal quality early childhood education for all 3 year-old children in the ACT.

Where will the universal access initiative for 3 year-olds be available/who will provide the service?

The first phase will offer up to 400 places for priority children in education and care services co-located with Early Childhood Schools and other early childhood settings.

How are priority children being selected for the 2020 initiative?

We are working with Community Services Directorate, Health Directorates, and community organisations to identify priority children.

Eligible families will be contacted directly to be offered the opportunity to enrol their child.

What are the initiatives for Koori Preschool?

From 2020, the existing Koori Preschool program for 3 to 5 year-olds will be expanded to 15 hours per week. We will be working with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to make sure Koori Pre is meeting the intended need.

Frequently Asked Questions

Key facts

From 2020 the rollout of 3 year-old preschool will begin for priority children. It will start with children who need extra support or who will benefit most.

Why is the Government investing in early childhood education for 3 year-olds? 
  • International and national evidence tells us that from birth, specially the first 3 years sets the groundwork for children’s social, physical, emotional, language and cognitive development.
  • The ACT Government is making sure every child, from the age of 3 will be able to access the best early childhood education possible.
  • We have received advice from an Early Childhood Advisory Council and a targeted consultation process which told us two years of play-based learning before school is supported by the community.
Why is the Government investing in preschool for 3 year-old children and not increasing hours for 4-year-old children?
  • The best evidence suggests that at a minimum 15 hours a week, 600 hours a year of quality early childhood education helps 3 and 4 year-olds have the best start to life.
  • Offering 3 and 4 year-olds quality early childhood education is a key recommendation of the Lifting our Game report commissioned by States and Territories. The Early Childhood Strategy aligns with the findings of the Lifting our Game report.
  • We will still provide 15 hours a week, 600 hours a year of free quality early childhood education to 4 year-olds in partnership with the Australian Government.
Are 3 year-old children too young to be put into a preschool setting?
How are children being selected for the 2020 initiative/can I enrol my 3 year-old child in preschool for 2020?
  • We are working with the Community Services Directorate and Health Directorates and community organisations to identify priority children for the first phase beginning in 2020.
  • Eligible families will be contacted directly to be offered the opportunity to enrol their child.
  • Families are not able to self-refer. Because only a small number of places are available in the first year it will be the children who are most in need who will be offered a place.
Where will the universal access initiative for 3 year-olds be available?

The first phase will offer up to 400 places for priority children in education and care services co-located with Early Childhood Schools and other early childhood settings.

Will the universal access initiative be delivered by a qualified Early Childhood Teacher in the same way that preschool is delivered to 4-year-old? 
  • The first phase in 2020 will see the early childhood workforce across services work together to deliver a high-quality preschool program for 3 year-olds.
  • Further details will be available as we develop the Strategy, the 3 year-old program will meet the requirements under the National Quality Framework.
Can an education and care service nominate to be part of the first phase in 2020?
  • Services will be approached directly.
  • We are focusing on making sure services and settings can work together for 3 year-olds, this is a new model which will be opt-in.
How many hours are Koori Preschools currently doing?
  • Koori Preschool currently provides 9 hours of preschool to children across four locations and 12 hours at a fifth location in the ACT. From 2020 the existing Koori Preschool program will be expanded to provide 15 hours of early childhood education per week for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children across all locations.
Where are Koori Preschools located?
  • Koori Preschools are run at Kingsford Smith School, Ngunnawal Primary School, Richardson Primary School, Narrabundah Early Childhood School and Wanniassa School.
  • The Koori Preschool program will be further developed through a co-design process which involves high-level
What does co-design involve?
  • collaboration with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to ensure that those attending the Koori preschool receive high quality, culturally appropriate early childhood education.
How will this impact the early childhood education and care sector?
  • The ACT’s education and care sector has long advocated for a long term, strategic approach to early childhood education.
  • Providing two years of quality early childhood education for children prior to school is a key recommendation of the Lifting our Game report.
  • This initiative is part of the Early Childhood Strategy, which aims to create a joined-up policy context for supporting fair access to early childhood education and care in the ACT, and a seamless experience for children and families when they access early childhood services.
How are you preparing the workforce, so they can effectively support this priority cohort of children?
  • We will be providing subsidised training for education and care staff in supporting children with trauma and early identification of families experiencing domestic violence.
  • Early intervention and support can bring immediate improvements, reduce the lifelong impact of domestic violence and interrupt intergenerational patterns of violence. This investment responds to a recommendation from the Domestic Violence Prevention Council’s Extraordinary Meeting Report.
Does the early childhood sector have the capacity to cater for the increased numbers of children accessing preschool? 
  • The sector as a whole has existing capacity to provide places for more children.
  • The phased implementation of this initiative will ensure that education and care services are ready for the increase in attendance.
How does this compare to what other States and Territories are doing in this space?
  • States and Territories are continuing to advocate to the Australian Government for long term funding for early childhood education.
  • Two years of quality early childhood education, prior to starting school, is a key recommendation of the Lifting our Game report which was commissioned and supported States and Territories.
  • NSW has announced that 600hrs per year of subsidised access to community preschool for three-year-old children from 2019.
  • Tasmania introduced the Working Together for 3 Year-Olds pilot program in 2019. An evaluation will be undertaken before further roll out in 2020.
  • Victoria has announced that it will start the phased roll out of a subsidised 15 hr Kindergarten program to 3 year-olds from 2020.

Contact

You can contact the Early Childhood Policy team via ECPolicy@act.gov.au.