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Report and Implications of the  Independent Inquiry into the Provision of Universal Access to high quality preschool education in Australia    . Kathy Walker Michaela Kronemann. XXIV World Congress of OMEP. Who is the AEU?.

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Report and Implications of the  Independent Inquiry into the Provision of Universal Access to high quality preschool education in Australia    

Kathy Walker

Michaela Kronemann

XXIV World Congress of OMEP

who is the aeu
Who is the AEU?

The Australian Education Union represents 155,000 teachers and education workers in public education, from preschools to schools to technical and further education institutes, across Australia.

Early childhood education is a key AEU priority:

  • 1998 AEU discussion paper: Towards a National Plan for preschool education: ongoing consultations, roundtables, policy development, Independent Inquiry.

AEU position:

  • universal and equitable access to at least one year of free, public, high quality preschool education
  • national plan needed
  • Commonwealth government has a role to play
defining preschool education
Defining preschool education
  • Complexity of structures and provision in Australia
  • Early childhood education encompasses 0-8
  • Developing curriculum frameworks 0-16
  • ‘Preschool is a planned educational program for children in the year before the first year of school. Children are usually aged between 4 - 5 years of age. A qualified early childhood teacher, who has completed a degree in education, plans the program and is usually supported by a teacher assistant.’ (Walker 2004)
funding of preschool education
Funding of preschool education
  • Average country expenditure for 3yo+ is 0.4% of GDP. Most countries spend 0.4% to 0.6%.
  • Australia spends 0.1% of GDP.
  • Australia is one of the 4 lowest spending out of 35 countries.

State funding levels vary – NSW & Victoria are the lowest.

Report on Government Services 2003

OECD, Education at a Glance 2002

the role of the commonwealth
The role of the Commonwealth
  • Commonwealth funding for preschool education was abolished in 1985.
  • The Commonwealth contributes to all other sectors of education and largely funds childcare.
  • There is no coherent national policy on preschool education, no national goals, and no consistent or coordinated strategies to ensure access.
  • National data is incomplete and inconsistent.
structures of preschool education
Structures of preschool education
  • Staffed and funded by Education Departments, and integrated with or linked to schools in: ACT, NT, Queensland, SA, Tasmania and WA.
  • Community Services focus in NSW and Victoria. Community, private, & local government providers, with a small number in government schools.

Education departments also responsible for child care in SA, Tasmania and ACT.

New links emerging between education and childcare and health in some systems.

differences between the systems
Differences between the systems
  • Funding
  • Age of entry
  • Departmental responsibility
  • Names of programs
  • Length of access
  • Cost to parents – high in NSW and Victoria
  • Links to schools
  • Links to other early childhood services eg child care, health
  • Hours of attendance
  • Maximum group size
  • Teacher qualification requirements
  • Salary parity
  • Access and participation rates
what is provided
What is provided?
  • On average, 10 – 12.5 hours of preschool education for 4 year olds (two years before Year 1.)
  • Queensland preschool one year prior to

year 1, but fulltime prep. in 2006.

  • 3 year olds also funded in NSW, Queensland, SA and ACT
  • Early access in some systems eg. for Indigenous children, pre-entry program in SA.
cost to parents
Cost to parents
  • No national update on comparative costs
  • NSW – reported average of $30 per day or $60 p.w.
  • Victoria: average about $140 per term or $140 p.w.
  • QLD: free in state schools

(avg. $12 p. day for younger children in C & K)

  • TAS WA

SA free or voluntary contribution ACT NT

participation in preschool education
Participation in preschool education
  • 253,400 4 year olds in Australia in 2002
  • 83.5% of 4 year olds in preschool in year before school
  • 27,704 3 year olds –around 17% of all 3 year olds.







239,270 children in preschool education

193,809 Commonwealth approved long day care places for 0-4 year olds in 2002.


who is missing out
Who is missing out?
  • About 40,000 children missing out-- about 2400 in NT
  • Data is incomplete and unreliable
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children(est. 13,000 3 & 4 year olds)
  • Children from NESB
  • Children with disabilities
  • Children from rural and remote areas?
  • Children from lower socio-economic backgrounds?

Report on Government Services 2003

Are all who attend

getting access to

quality provision?

independent national inquiry initiated by aeu to provide a forum for stakeholders
Independent national inquiryinitiated by AEU, to provide a forum for stakeholders

Terms of Reference

  • The Inquiry will seek to ascertain and report on the views of early childhood education stakeholders in relation to the following issues:
  • 1. the degree to which Australia is successful in ensuring that all children in
  • Australia have equitable access to a high quality free preschool education;
  • 2. the current barriers that prevent all children from accessing preschool
  • education and the challenges that need to be addressed;
  • 3. the roles that the Commonwealth and State/Territory Governments should
  • play in ensuring universal access to preschool education;
  • 4. initiatives that would guarantee that all children do have access to a high
  • quality preschool education;
  • 5. strategies and arrangements that would strengthen the links between
  • preschool education, early childhood education in schools and other
  • early childhood services
inquiry process
Inquiry process

Independent researcher: Kathy Walker

  • national forum October
  • State/territory visits Nov.2003 – March 2004:
  • forums, visits, meetings, discussions
  • Written and verbal submissions by 31 March
  • Launch of report at national forum on 25 May 2004

summary of major findings of inquiry
Summary of major findings of inquiry
  • From a national perspective, this inquiry found that preschool education is characterised by fragmentation, varying degrees of quality, no equitable access, and without a national vision, commitment or consistent approach. The number of different approaches, funding formulas, terminology, child ratios, curriculum, costs and delivery hours and models promote inequity across Australia for young children in their preschool year
key findings


  • Indigenous
  • Poverty and or Low SES
  • Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Background
  • Special needs

“I can’t help feeling like it really is just the luck of the draw as to whether or not you receive a preschool education. It seems to depend upon where you live in Australia and not that you are Australian that provides you with equitable access to a free quality preschool education.”

(School Principal)

major findings
Major findings
  • Significant barriers exist in Australia that prevent equity of access
  • Lack of a national vision and commitment to preschool education is viewed as a major barrier to access of high quality preschool.

Costs to parents are a major barrier to preschool access, particularly in NSW and Victoria.

  • Lack of qualified early childhood teachers impacts upon the quality and number of preschool programs available in some areas of Australia

Lack of adequate funding, resources and supports for preschool education for children with special needs is a significant barrier to equity and access.

  • Lack of links between services adds complexity and difficulty for families and children in understanding what to access and how to access appropriate services and programs.

Differences in terminology for preschool and the first year of school reflect a fragmentation of preschool programs across Australia and are particularly problematic for families who move between states.

  • Differences in age of entry to preschool and the first year of school create further confusion for families and inequity for children across Australia

Significant differences in government funding levels and models contribute to unequal access to preschool education across Australia.


There is currently no national plan or vision for preschool education across Australia other than to leave it to the responsibility of each state and territory


Anational plan for preschool education be developed between the Commonwealth and states and territories to ensure equity and access to high quality preschool


The provision of high quality and accessible preschool education for all children in the year before commencing school is free for all children across Australia and is acknowledged at a federal level as a universal right.


It is recommended that the Commonwealth reintroduce dedicated funding for preschool education and that Commonwealth and state and territory governments jointly provide the full costs of preschool education.


The Commonwealth and State and Territory governments give priority to ensuring access to high quality preschool education for Indigenous children across the country;

Access to two years of preschool education be provided for all Indigenous children


Current initiatives that link health, education and community programs be increased and expanded. Higher levels of coordination between services should be established between government and non-government organisations in direct consultation with Indigenous communities.


The Commonwealth, and state and territory governments provide a significant and immediate increase in funding to provide adequate supports and resources for children with special needs.


It is recommended that preschools and child care centres across Australia come under the jurisdiction of the departments of Education in each state and territory and provide continuity for children and families between child care, preschool and the first year of school.


Inquiry website:

Email contacts:

Kathy Walker

Michaela Kronemann

AEU website: