Page 2406 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 31 July 2018

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ministerial early childhood advisory council. A month or so ago I met with the advisory council to hear about the thinking that had been done so far and was encouraged by the direction of their conversations and some of the opportunities they had identified.

Particularly important was their view that the ACT needs to be the jurisdiction that puts children first. On a national level, there has been some important work done that is also contributing to the development of this strategy.

MR STEEL: Minister, why is the government looking at the issue of universal access to early childhood education for three-year-old children?

MS BERRY: As I referred to, there has been national work, particularly around Lifting Our Game: Report of the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools through Early Childhood Interventions. Recommendation 5 of the Lifting our game report recommends:

Australian governments progressively implement universal access to 600 hours per year of a quality early childhood education program, for example preschool, for all three year olds, with access prioritised for disadvantaged children, families and communities during the roll out.

The ACT government has accepted the overwhelming evidence culminating in this recommendation and decided in principle that a plan for incremental implementation of free, universal, quality early childhood education should be a key part of the ACT early childhood strategy which is currently being developed.

Well-established research evidence has shown that the period from birth through to eight years, especially the first three years, sets the foundation for a child’s development. Child learning and development in the years before school are the determinant of future school achievement, social, emotional and health outcomes, and ultimately life opportunities.

Historically in Australia early learning has not been seen as a right for all children. Foundational learning is not equitably accessible to all children, yet policy settings and decisions by some governments, the federal government in particular, are not challenging this problem and are probably making it worse.

Through work on the strategy, it has become clear that there is an opportunity for the ACT to make radical progress, most significantly through providing free, universal, quality early childhood education for three-year-old children. The ACT government has set a goal of 15 hours per week, 600 hours per year, of free, universal, quality early childhood education for three-year-old children as a key part of the ACT’s early childhood strategy.

MS ORR: How would this build on access to preschool already available to families in the ACT?

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