Bayside City Council is seeking a commitment to long-term funding from the Australian Government that guarantees 15 hours of four-year-old kindergarten per week, per child.
Kindergarten is linked to improved numeracy, reading and spelling yet Australia spends less on preschool education than most other developed countries.
The Federal and State Governments jointly fund 15 hours of kindergarten for 4-year-olds. But federal funding is only renewed annually, leaving uncertainty for families and services.
Without an ongoing commitment from the Federal Government, parents could face fee increases of up to $2000 a year, meaning many children will simply miss out.
Council is asking the Australian Government to commit long-term funding, guaranteeing 15 hours of kindergarten per week for all four-year-olds.
Ongoing Federal Government funding is vital to ensure every family in the community can access kindergarten services, giving children the best possible start to school.
Local area population forecasts project that the four year old population in Bayside will increase by 136 over the next 18 years.
Council has outlined a $13 million plan to upgrade kindergarten infrastructure over the next 10 years.
Following the 2019-20 Federal Budget, federal funding for four year old kindergarten is only secured until December 2020.
If Federal Government funding is discontinued it is estimated families will pay an extra $2000 per child per year. Our more vulnerable families will simply miss out on valuable early childhood education.
The National Early Childhood Development Strategy 2009 acknowledged there is clear evidence that the early years of a child’s life have a profound impact on their future health, development, learning and wellbeing.
The Strategy also recognises that benefits accrue to the whole society, through enhanced human capital and capability, increased productivity, greater social inclusion and reduced public expenditure in health, welfare and crime related to disadvantage over the life course.
The National Quality Agenda for Early Childhood Education and Care commits all Australian governments to delivering the vision that ‘by 2020 all children have the best start in life to create a better future for themselves and for the nation.’
Since 2008 the Australian Government has provided a funding contribution to ensure families have nationally consistent access to 15 hours per week, or 600 hours per year in the year before school.
Annual performance reports highlight steady improvements in preschool participation rates since the introduction of the national arrangements in 2008. From 2008 the number of children enrolled in preschool has grown significantly from an estimated 206,000 to nearly 340,000 in 2017.
The Lifting Our Game report highlights that not only is Australia ranked 24 out of 26 OECD nations in terms of its investment in early childhood education, but it is one of just 11 nations worldwide to provide one year of preschool – putting it on par with countries like Angola, Bermuda, Iran and Nigeria.
Federal funding is only secured until December 2020 for 15 hours of four year-old kindergarten. The National Partnership Agreement for the National Quality Agenda on Early Childhood Education and Care is also uncertain. This is the system that oversees regulation and quality assessment of all early childhood education and care services.