Page 3185 - Week 10 - Thursday, 17 September 2015

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contribution to this debate. It is an important debate to make sure that we provide Canberra families with access to quality child care. We on this side of the chamber absolutely understand this and that is why it was very important—and indeed provided a great deal of satisfaction for me—this morning to announce our continued commitment to affordable high quality preschool for children that are attending public preschools.

Preschool is an exciting time for families and children. It is a time of anticipation but with a level of apprehension, I have no doubt, for some parents as they watch their children starting their love of learning and their natural curiosity through preschool. Families are indeed recognised as the children’s first and most influential educators. Preschool education consolidates learning and prepares children for formal education, extending and enriching children’s lived experience.

This government has long recognised that preschool education is pivotal to a child’s learning and wellbeing and we are committed to families having accessible high quality preschool education. The significant investment the ACT government has made to early childhood education focuses on children’s wellbeing. We have lifted the quality in line with the national quality framework and we have set service provision to meet the needs of our community. As a result, families now more than ever are empowered to choose affordable high quality education for their children.

There is much to celebrate as we here in the ACT continue to be one of the only jurisdictions to offer free public preschool to all four-year-old children in the year before formal schooling. The ACT continues to lead the nation in providing a strong and evidence-based foundation for parental engagement in schools. The progressing parental engagement in ACT projects provides families and schools with an understanding of what parental engagement is, why it matters and how it works.

We also support the preschool matters program that recognises the importance of parental engagement to children’s academic achievement through the preschool matters grants. Families have engaged with their local preschools in innovative and practical ways. We in the ACT Labor government are proud of our achievements and we are committed to continue with this.

The national reform agenda for the national quality framework has put our families in good stead. The national partnership agreement on universal access to early childhood education was signed in 2009 and the partnership enhances the learning and development of our children. A signatory to this agreement, we were able to move from 12 to 15 hours of free preschool in government preschools 40 weeks of the year. Since that time there have been a series of such agreements, signalling a mutual interest of the commonwealth and states, to be fair, in improving outcomes for preschool children.

At the conclusion of each of these national partnership agreements, new agreements have been negotiated. But our current partnership expires in December of this year, and, as I have said before, and as Ms Fitzharris has made comment on, we are yet to have agreement from the commonwealth.

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