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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 28 March 2017) . . Page.. 1163 ..

Australia was historically late to pick up on the importance of early childhood education, but over the last 10 years there has been a determined change for the better. That change involved governments working together for reform, regardless of party lines.

The key has been to focus on improving the quality in the sector and support for universal access through funding from the commonwealth government. In 2012, in partnership with the Australian government, state and territory governments implemented the national quality framework for early childhood education and care and school age care. The national quality framework set a new quality benchmark and has improved outcomes for all children participating in these services, regardless of which setting they attend or where they live. It raised the quality of education and care services through improved educator qualifications, lower educator-to-child ratios, a national quality standard and assessment and rating process, and a new early learning framework.

But improved quality in early childhood education can only achieve so much if the people who most need access to it are excluded. The national partnership agreement on universal access to early childhood education has provided vital commonwealth funding to make sure all children have access to 15 hours of preschool per week, or 600 hours per year.

It is achieving results. The Productivity Commission’s 2017 report on early childhood education and care shows that around the country over 96 per cent of four-year-old children were attending preschool programs in the year before school. But, despite all of the evidence about how important preschool is, despite the results Australia is achieving because of a focus on improvement, the federal coalition government has been silent on continuing the vital funding required to ensure universal access.

While the federal coalition government is clearly uncertain about its policy, I am certain about the ACT government’s policy. We are committed to improving access to quality education in the early years and integrating it with the vital community services that children and families need on their path to a decent standard of living.

Early childhood education is not an add-on. Early childhood education is about setting people up for a good life. We have an opportunity to make a real difference for all children. As I will keep saying, we cannot tolerate a situation where the life circumstances of a child showing up at school mean we will know whether they will succeed or not.

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong) (4.01): It is well evidenced that a quality early childhood education has lifelong positive outcomes in a range of domains. These education environments include what our parents would have simply called child care, which has now professionalised into the early childhood education and care sector, and for the ACT what we call preschool.

The ACT is rightly proud that universal access of 15 hours per week per child for all ACT children is provided by the ACT government-operated preschools under the

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