National Report on Schooling in Australia 2011

National initiatives and achievements

2.3 Strengthening early childhood education¹

Australian governments have committed to supporting the development and strengthening of early childhood education, to provide every child with the opportunity for the best start in life (Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians 2008).
Through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), all Australian governments have established early childhood education and development as a priority, committing to a five-year National Partnership Agreement on Early Childhood Education.

National Partnership Agreement on Early Childhood Education

Through the National Partnership Agreement on Early Childhood Education, Commonwealth and State and Territory governments have committed to ensuring that all children will have access to a quality early childhood education program by 2013, delivered by a university-trained early childhood teacher, for 15 hours a week, 40 weeks a year, in the year before full-time schooling.
The Commonwealth’s commitment of $970 million over the five years to 30 June 2013 includes $955 million directly to States and Territories to support their implementation of universal access to early childhood education. Three million dollars each year (for five years) has also been set aside for research, data development and evaluation. The National Partnership includes a specific focus on ensuring early childhood education is available to Indigenous and disadvantaged children.
The National Partnership is closely linked to other elements of the Australian Government’s early childhood reform agenda, including the early childhood education Closing the Gap target, the development of the national Early Years Learning Framework, workforce reforms and the development of a national quality framework for early childhood education and care.
Further information on the National Partnership Agreement on Early Childhood Education, including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Universal Access Strategy, is available on the DEEWR website.

National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Early Childhood Development

Under the National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Early Childhood Development, COAG agreed that at least 35 Children and Family Centres would be established across Australia by June 2014. Locations for 38 centres have been agreed. The Australian Government is providing $292.62 million in funding to establish the centres.
The Children and Family Centres are being established in a mix of remote, regional and urban locations. They are concentrated in areas where there is demonstrated need for these services, high disadvantage and a high proportion of Indigenous children under five years of age. The centres will deliver integrated services, including early learning, child care and family support programs.

National Partnership Agreement on National Quality Agenda for Early Childhood Education and Care

In 2009, COAG endorsed the National Partnership Agreement on the National Quality Agenda for Early Childhood Education and Care. This National Partnership Agreement will contribute to improving outcomes for children attending education and care services (including long day care, family day care, kindergarten/preschool², and outside school hours care (OSHC)) through the following objectives:
  • deliver an integrated and unified national system for early childhood education and care services, which is jointly governed and which drives continuous improvement in the quality of services

  • improve educational and developmental outcomes for children attending early childhood education and care services, including by establishing a new national quality standard for all education and care services

  • reduce regulatory burden for education and care service providers

  • improve public knowledge about and access to information about the quality of education and services, which will help families to understand the quality of education and care provided to their children

  • build a highly skilled workforce.

National Information Agreement on Early Childhood Education and Care

In 2009, MCEECDYA endorsed the National Information Agreement on Early Childhood Education and Care. This agreement facilitates the collection, sharing and reporting of early childhood education and care information. It was developed in consultation with the Australian Government, States and Territories, as well as key data agencies. The National Information Agreement on Early Childhood Education and Care is an important step in national efforts to improve the quality and reliability of early childhood education and care data. The agreement is a key element of the COAG monitoring and reporting arrangements, especially for early childhood education for all children in the year before school under the National Partnership Agreement on Early Childhood Education, and for Indigenous children in that age group, under the Closing the Gap agenda.
Under the MCEETYA four-year plan 2009–2012, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) is responsible for the ‘alignment between the Early Years Learning Framework and school-based curriculum frameworks which relate to the early years of schooling’. The Early Years Learning Framework was taken into account during Phases 1 and 2 of the development of the Australian Curriculum, Foundation to Year 10.
Further information on the commitment for strengthening early childhood education is outside the scope of the National Report on Schooling in Australia but is available on the DEEWR website.


¹ Early childhood education and care occurs before children are enrolled in full-time schooling. Statistical and other information on early childhood education in Australia is therefore outside the scope of the National Report on Schooling in Australia. This section on strengthening early childhood education is included as a national initiative in this report to acknowledge Education Ministers’ commitment within the Melbourne Declaration to strengthen early childhood education and to acknowledge the role of early childhood education in preparing children for full-time schooling.
² In jurisdictions where preschool is currently delivered by government or non-government schools there will be an option of administering the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care through existing government quality assurance processes with respect to preschools. (National Partnership Agreement on National Quality Agenda for Early Childhood Education and Care, Appendix B-8.53)