Setting the foundations for every child’s success

Released 24/06/2019

From the beginning of 2020, three year old children most in need—specifically, families experiencing disadvantage and vulnerability—will be able to access 15 hours per week, 600 hours per year of free, quality early childhood education.

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.

This first, targeted phase will include up to 400 dedicated places for priority families in services co-located with Early Childhood Schools and other early childhood settings. Eligible families for 2020 will be contacted directly to be offered the opportunity to enrol their child.

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

This initiative, funded in the 2019-20 ACT Budget, is the first step in rolling out this very significant reform to all Canberra families. It forms part of a $2.2 million package of investments aimed at improving equitable access to early childhood education in 2020.

A key focus of the first phase of universal access for three year old children is delivering culturally positive early childhood experiences for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

From 2020, the ACT Government will expand the hours of the existing Koori Preschool program for three to five year old children to 15 hours per week, as well as deliver a co-design process to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children receive high quality, culturally appropriate early childhood education. In other parts of Australia this has led to outreach models like a mobile preschool.

This investment will support the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Early Years Engagement Officers who connect families with Koori Preschools, Child and Family Centres, and schools.

Within the early childhood package, the ACT Government will be expanding the Prep for Pre Program across a range of early childhood settings. The program provides children with a supporting experience of what preschool will be like to manage their anxiety and build skills as well as providing support for parents to be effective ‘first teachers’ and engage in their child’s early education.

Importantly, the Prep for Pre Program provides opportunities for early intervention services to offer supported pathways and developmental assessments for vulnerable children prior to starting preschool.

The ACT Government is also delivering on its election commitment to alleviate the burden on families by developing a pilot program of after-hours care for ACT Government preschool students at up to four sites and to provide grants of up to $50,000 for each site.

The ACT Government will also subsidise training for non-government 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.

This package of investments forms part of the implementation of the ACT Early Childhood Strategy (to be released in full in coming months) and contributes to providing equitable access to high-quality early childhood education across the Territory.

- Statement ends -

Section: Yvette Berry, MLA | Media Releases

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