New Mitchell Institute brief lobbies for UA across Australia for three and four year olds
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New Mitchell Institute brief lobbies for UA across Australia for three and four year olds

by Freya Lucas

February 22, 2021

A new Mitchell Institute brief has called for every three- and four-year-old child across the country to have access to universal high-quality preschool for the best start in life.


If this system was adopted, authors argue, Australia could boost its recovery from the social and economic fallout from COVID-19. Currently, after a decade of solid progress in ensuring all young Australians can benefit from preschool, Australia is now at risk of stagnating, or sliding backwards


The brief, Stepping Up: Securing the future of quality preschool in Australia, was co-authored by  Mitchell Institute Policy Fellow, Kate Noble, who said Australia “must step up its investment in preschool or risk falling behind other countries and short-changing a generation of children.”


Two fundamental reforms are required in order to make quality preschool affordable for every Australian child, authors said. 


Firstly, a consistent national framework for two years of preschool education, and secondly, a “stable and simple” funding arrangement to ensure this happens consistently.


Ms Noble notes that while many OECD nations have 95 per cent or more of the population enrolled in preschool in the year before school, Australia lags behind.


The percentage of Australian children enrolled in preschool in the year before school has fallen for three consecutive years, from 92 per cent in 2016 to 87 per cent in 2019. The largest declines have been shown in Queensland and Victoria, both states where authors state costs have been “historically high”.


“Enrolment rates are lower among some groups, including children with a disability, those living in remote and regional areas, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who are slightly less likely to attend preschool in the year before school compared with the national average. We also know these groups of children are among those most likely to benefit from preschool,” Ms Noble said. 


With research suggesting that two years of preschool delivers greater benefits than one, with children developing stronger cognitive skills on the start of school especially in communication and literacy, authors said that high-quality play-based learning “is vital for giving children the best start in life, supporting greater workforce participation and stimulating our economy.”


To access a copy of the report please see here

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