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$840 million for preschools over next two years

The Turnbull Government will provide $840 million in funding for children to have access to 15 hours a week of high-quality preschool education in the year before they begin school.

The education minister, Senator Simon Birmingham, announced that the government has made a formal offer to states and territories to extend the National Partnership Agreement on universal access to early childhood education in 2016 and 2017.

“We know preschool is critical in laying the foundations for future learning, including children’s school readiness and future school success,” Birmingham said in a statement. “The Turnbull Government is committed to ensuring that Australian children and families receive the appropriate support when and where they need it, particularly in the year before they start school.”

Birmingham said the National Partnership Agreement has set country-wide benchmarks, including specific programs for Indigenous, vulnerable and disadvantaged young Australians. He said the agreement would also require states and territories to support preschool programs in long day care centres, as well as government and community preschools.

Early Childhood Australia chief executive Samantha Page welcomed the announcement. “The research evidence is unequivocal that 15 hours a week in a teacher-led preschool program gives all children a good start, making a successful transition to school more likely and [affecting] long-term educational outcomes in literacy, numeracy and school completion. It is particularly important for children from a disadvantaged background, who might otherwise be at risk of poor education outcomes,” she said.

A spokesperson from ECA said, “We know children who attend a preschool program before school are up to 20 points ahead, by the time they reach Year 3, in reading, writing and maths, so it’s critical that all children have access to this and $840 million will make sure it’s delivered over the next few years.”

Early Learning Association Australia chief executive Shane Lucas said he was pleased with the government’s decision to continue to fund preschools for 2016 and 2017. “There’s a lot of evidence to suggest longer-term education for children is positive,” Lucas said. “The research is quite clear that the greater amount of time that children of that age are for are able to spend in a quality early learning environment, the greater their educational outcomes will be over time.”

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