Two years of preschool better than one
Goodstart Early Learning has joined researchers in supporting calls for all Australian children to have access to at least two years of preschool.
A new report by Mitchell Institute at Victoria University highlighted the substantial benefits children received from access to two years of early learning before school.
Goodstart's advocacy manager John Cherry said a vital first step in this important improvement to early childhood education would be for the Federal Government to put its Jobs for Families child care reform package before the Senate in November.
Nearly a quarter of Australian children are arriving at school with significant vulnerabilities – in their knowledge and communication, their social skills and emotional wellbeing, or in their physical health.
International evidence shows that two years of preschool (also known as kindergarten) has more impact than the one year that Australian currently provides.
“We have proposed some modest amendments to the package to ensure children from the bottom 40% of families are able to access at least 15 hours of early learning each week," Mr Cherry said.
“Under this proposal, a single income working family with income of around $50,000 with a three-year-old wanting to access a preschool program in a typical long day care centre for two days would see their out of pocket cost reduced from 50 per cent of the fee to just 15 per cent of the fee.
“That would go a long way to reducing barriers to early learning and increasing the percentage of three year olds able to access preschool programs in early learning.”
The report, Preschool—Two Years are Better than One
, found two years of quality preschool would give children the best chance to thrive at school and later in life. It found all governments should work together to make preschool available to all three years olds.
The report shows that two years can do even more to improve brain growth and emotional wellbeing, and is especially beneficial for children experiencing developmental vulnerabilities.
Dr Stacey Fox from the University’s Mitchell Institute said that looking closely at evidence for two years of preschool and considering what workeds best in Australia had highlighted real advantages for delivering universal access to two years of preschool, starting when children were three years old.
“Two years of preschool is one of the best investments governments can make to amplify children’s learning and development,” Dr Fox said.
“Two out of three Australian three-year-olds already attend some form of early education but the number of hours and types of programs they attend vary greatly.
“Just like with four-year-old preschool, we need to ensure all three-year-olds have access to the right amount of high quality early education to help them grow into curious, creative, capable young learners.”
The report finds an extra year of preschool has positive impacts for all children and is one of the most effective strategies to change the life course of the quarter of children and young people experiencing education challenges across the country.
Importantly, the findings emphasise that high-quality preschool programs help grow curious minds and support social and emotional wellbeing – they don’t only focus on academic skills.
“Preschool is about helping children learn to get along with others, to be creative and collaborative problem solvers, to understand and talk about emotions and to boost their love of learning,” Dr Fox said.
Mr Cherry said the Government had three sitting weeks remaining to put the Jobs for Families childcare package before Parliament. This would ensure there is sufficient time to plan for the changes which are scheduled to take effect from July 1.
The report is available at www.mitchellinstitute.org.au