The Labor Party will go to the 2019 election with a plan to extend current Government funding of preschool access to every Australian three-year-old.
The move would see every child in Australia access 15 hours of early childhood education in their two years prior to starting primary school.
Currently, under the National Partnership Agreement for Universal Access to Early Childhood Education, the Federal and State/Territory Governments fund varying levels of access for four-year-olds. The Partnership Agreement was developed by the Labor Government in 2009.
However, since coming to power in 2013, the Partnership Agreement has faced continued uncertainty from the Coalition Government, with 12-month extensions and an announcement in the most recent Federal Budget that the Agreement would cease at the end of 2019.
As evidence mounts on the need for Australia to dramatically improve its investment in early childhood education, the States have begun to move on this policy issue by themselves. Both NSW and the ACT have made announcements related to funding preschool access to three-year-olds in the last 12 months.
National opinion polling has also revealed overwhelming community support for funding three-year-old preschool.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will announce Labor’s plan on three-year-old preschool in a speech, which will detail a commitment to work with the States and Territories on a new $1.7 billion strategy to ensure access for all children. The first year that the new funding would apply to would be 2021.
Shorten said the investment would “help close the gaps created by disadvantage” and “help tackle the inequality faced by children born into low-income households who are currently denied educational opportunities that their peers may have. This reform will see two years of early childhood education permanently embedded into our education system, in recognition of the importance of the early years of a child’s life,” Bill Shorten was quoted as saying in The Guardian.