For decades, the early childhood sector has known about the benefits of two years of preschool. High-quality, affordable early years education is a human right, and the AEU has always believed that providing universal access to two years of funded preschool programs is an achievable and desirable policy goal.
The AEU has welcomed the Andrews government’s decision to expand preschool programs for Victorian children in the two years before they start school. If re-elected, the state government has committed $9 billion to early childhood education, on top of the current $5 billion to expand three-year-old kindergarten.
This significant investment will include free preschool programs from 2023 for all Victorian three and four-year-old children, a saving of up to $2,500 per child each year for families. Alongside the important educational benefits for children, this helps support women’s participation in the workforce and means that families will no longer face a financial barrier to sending their child to kinder.
Over the next decade, four-year-old kindergarten will transition to increased hours of attendance, with a universal 30-hour program per week of play-based learning for every four-year-old in Victoria. ‘Pre-prep’ will be delivered through both standalone kindergarten services and long daycare centres, giving all children 15 hours of three-year-old and 30 hours of four-year-old preschool education.
All children benefit from two years of preschool taught by qualified teachers and educators, but the ones who benefit the most are those at the greatest risk of developmental vulnerability.
Fifty affordable, Victorian government-owned childcare centres will be established, making it easier for families to access childcare where there is an unmet demand.
Young children learn an enormous range of critical foundational skills in the years before they start school. These key areas of early childhood development – physical health and wellbeing, social competence, emotional maturity and regulation, executive function, language and cognitive skills, building of positive relationships, communication skills, and general knowledge – have been shown to predict later outcomes in health, wellbeing and academic success.
All children benefit from two years of preschool taught by qualified teachers and educators, but the ones who benefit the most are those at the greatest risk of developmental vulnerability. For these children, two years of preschool substantially changes their trajectories, significantly lifting their educational and life outcomes.
A sufficient workforce is a key component of this reform, and the AEU will actively work to ensure the state government takes the necessary steps to develop the workforce required. Our Ten-Year Plan for Staffing in Public Education outlines the union’s recommendations for securing and retaining teachers across the state, including in rural, regional and hard-to-staff areas. We look forward to working with the government on these exciting initiatives, with members appropriately consulted at every step to attract and retain a highly qualified, well-supported early childhood workforce.