Last year the ACT Government announced it would provide 15 hours a week free preschool for three-year-olds. Backed by significant evidence in the field, the initiative aims to increase equity and affordability, enhance the workforce, improve transitions, and maximise benefits.
Council understands that phase one of the plan will be rolled out in the ACT in 2020 regardless of Commonwealth funding and that the initiative will not include for-profit organisations.
Council has been consulting with parents, preschools and stakeholders and has some questions regarding the program’s objectives and approach. We want to ensure the additional year of preschool will really address educational equity in the most cost-effective way. We wonder:
- How many four-year-olds are missing out on preschool in the existing program? Of these how many are from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds?
- Do most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and ELAD (English as an additional language or dialect) students currently utilise early entry for preschool (additional six months prior to the preschool year)?
- How can Council work with the Directorate to ensure all educationally disadvantaged four-year-olds access preschool?
- Will preschools be supported with changes to cater for the additional needs of 3-year-olds and are children expected to be toilet trained?
Given the concerns of parents and service providers, we are hoping the Directorate will consider providing a parent seminar to outline how the 2020 roll-out will proceed.
This article appeared in ParentACTion Magazine, Term 1, 2019.