The ACT Government has set a goal of 15 hours per week, 600 hours per year of free, universal quality early childhood education for three year old children as a key part of the ACT Early Childhood Strategy.
Well established research evidence has shown that the period from birth through to eight years, especially the first three years, sets the foundation for every child’s social, physical, emotional and cognitive development.
The recent Report of the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools through Early Childhood Interventions: Lifting Our Game comprehensively reviewed the evidence and recommended that:
- “Australian governments progressively implement universal access to 600 hours per year of a quality early childhood education program, for example preschool, for all three year olds, with access prioritised for disadvantaged children, families and communities during roll out” (Recommendation 5).
The ACT Government has accepted the overwhelming evidence cumulating in this recommendation and decided in-principle that a plan for incremental implementation of free, universal quality early childhood education should be a key part of the ACT Early Childhood Strategy currently being developed.
The ACT Government’s fundamental belief in educational equity requires a renewed focus on equitable access to high quality early childhood learning and development opportunities. Child learning and development in the years before school are the determinant of future school achievement, social, emotional and health outcomes, and ultimately life opportunities.
This policy objective clearly comes with a financial cost and its incremental implementation will require careful design of a model that is affordable, sustainable, but more importantly keeps the right focus.
It also means maintaining the pressure on the federal government to match its rhetoric in early childhood education with a sustained commitment to partnership funding.
Just as with school education, early childhood education needs to be focused on helping each child to gain a strong start with government funding flowing to the greatest extent to achieving learning and development. For this reason the government will be shaping the design of this policy around a non-commercial model in the same way we approach school education.
Additionally, a key issue in providing high quality early learning is the skill and professionalism of the workforce. Early childhood educators take on enormous responsibility for helping children learn things like the alphabet and how to count, and help children develop important physical, social and emotional skills. The government will be looking at how it can make sure the important work of educators is better valued.
Over the coming months I will have a conversation with parents, the early childhood education sector, schools and the wider community about how, and therefore when, the government will be able to make this vital education opportunity universally available.
The conversation and design of a model will be founded in some important principles that will keep the focus on child outcomes and make sure government investment has the greatest possible impact. Through this process the government will become able to make decisions about funding and other resource constraints so that progressively every three year old child in the ACT has access to free, high quality early childhood education.
Information about development of the ACT Early Childhood Strategy is available at http://www.yoursay.act.gov.au/.
- Statement ends -
Section: Yvette Berry, MLA | Media Releases
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