ACT commits to 3 year old universal access for children most in need from 2020
The ACT Government has confirmed that from the beginning of 2020, three year old children most in need, specifically those from families experiencing disadvantage and vulnerability, will be able to access 15 hours a week, 600 hours a year of free, quality early childhood education.
The initiative forms part of the soon to be released Early Childhood Strategy and will include up to 400 dedicated places for priority families in services co-located with early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings.
The initiative was announced in a statement released by ACT Minister for Education and Early Childhood Development Yvette Berry, which stated that $2.2 million has been allocated in the 2019-20 ACT Budget to support and improve equitable access to quality early childhood education within which the Universal Access initiatives are included.
To ensure that the program has maximum impact,the first phase will also commit to delivering culturally positive early learning and care experiences for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children through a co-design curriculum process, and will see the hours of existing Koori preschool programs increased to 15 hours per week going forward.
Prep for Pre Program and after hours care pilot adds additional support in package
The early childhood package will see the existing Prep for Pre program receive a boost as it is rolled out across a range of ECEC settings.
The Prep for Pre program allows children to experience what preschool is like ahead of enrolment. It is structured to provide as much support as possible to the child so as to manage their anxiety around moving up and also to build skills to enable the child to thrive.
Importantly, there is a parent component to the program that helps educate and empower parents to become their “first teachers” and engage in their child’s early education, in addition to pathways to facilitate opportunities for early intervention, particularly for vulnerable children prior to starting preschool.
For families that are attending one of four preschools in the ACT, a new pilot will be launched that will trial a program of after hours care. Although the site locations have not been specifically named a grant of $50,000 will be made available to each site to support the pilot’s roll out.
Finally, the ACT Government has committed to subsidise training for non-government education and care team members in supporting children with trauma and identifying early indications of families experiencing domestic violence.
This set of initiatives is the first phase of the ACT’s Governments much anticipated Early Childhood Strategy which is expected to be released in the coming months.