We know that from birth, especially a child’s first three years sets the groundwork for their lifetime learning. Because of this we are making sure every three 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:
- increasing access, equity and affordability
- enhancing the workforce and their qualifications
- ensuring seamless transitions from education and care to school
- 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, three 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 three year-old children in the ACT.
Where will the universal access initiative be available for three year-olds/who will provide the service?
The first phase will offer up to 300 places for priority children in education and care services co-located with Early Childhood Schools and other early childhood settings. In addition, access to 15 hours per week of preschool for up to 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged three years will be provided.
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 three to five 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. In addition, access to 15 hours per week of preschool for up to 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged three years will be provided.
How can my service get involved in the universal access initiative?
Interested education and care providers are encouraged to provide a submission to the Prequalified Panel of Centre Based Service Providers.
As well as centre based services that provide education and care in Education Directorate facilities (long day care for children aged between 0 and 5 years-old as well as out of school hours care providing care for 4 to 12 year-olds in public schools) the Panel also includes centre based services that do not provide education and care in Education Directorate facilities but can commit to the objectives of the ACT Early Childhood Strategy, including the universal access initiative.
Submissions from prospective education and care providers who would like to be part of this exciting initiative are welcome on an ongoing basis, to support the capacity, variety of locations, and the number of quality services.
The Centre Based Services Procurement Framework provides more information on how to make a submission.
Email EDUStratgicProcurement@act.gov.au for further information on the procurement framework or the prequalification process.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
- International and national evidence tells us that from birth, specially the first three 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 three 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.
- The best evidence suggests that at a minimum 15 hours a week, 600 hours a year of quality early childhood education helps three and four year-olds have the best start to life.
- Offering three and four 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 four year-olds in partnership with the Australian Government.
- All early childhood settings in the ACT (aka childcare) including preschools use the Belonging, Being and Becoming – The Early Years Learning Framework (the Framework).
- Play-based learning, communication, language and relationships are a key part of the Framework.
- 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.
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.
- Services will be approached directly.
- We are focusing on making sure services and settings can work together for three year-olds, this is a new model which will be opt-in.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Three 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 three year-olds from 2020.
You can contact the Early Childhood Policy team via ECPolicy@act.gov.au.