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Federal Government funds preschool agreement, but only for a further 12 months

Simon Birmingham. Photo Credit: Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Photo Credit: Australian Broadcasting Corporation

The Government has announced another short-term funding extension for 15 hours of preschool for Australian children, making this the fifth 12-month agreement since the Coalition Government came into power in 2013.

The National Partnership Agreement funding provides top-up payments to the States and Territories to provide at least 15 hours of access to preschool in the year before school. The original agreement was developed in 2009 for an initial four-year period under the Labor Government.

Since the change of Government in 2013 the Agreement has consistently become inconsistent and often developed at the last minute, despite reassurances from successive Education Ministers that the Government is committed to early childhood education.

In a statement, the Education Minister Simon Birmingham said: “The Turnbull Government’s $440 million funding boost secures education opportunities for more than 348,000 of Australia’s littlest learners. The research is clear about the positive impact quality early education and care has for children, especially as preparation for school.”

However, Mr Birmingham used the announcement to express his disappointment with the States and Territories regarding data which suggests that participation rates are well below enrolment rates, and that many children are not attending the full 15 hours.

“States must find ways to motivate the parents of educationally vulnerable preschoolers to both enrol and attend, otherwise we risk a lost generation of children who start school too far behind their counterparts,” said Mr Birmingham.

Victorian Early Education Minister Jenny Mikakos described the new announcement as “short-changing our kids” by only putting a further 12 months into the Agreement after the recent Lifting Our Game Report highlighted continual short-term extensions cause uncertainty and planning challenges.

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