In an effort to deliver significant improvements and outcomes for all Australians, in 2007 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) established a partnership between the Australian Government and the state and territory governments to encourage substantial reform in the areas of education, skills and early childhood development.
In 2008, COAG endorsed a comprehensive set of goals, outcomes, progress measures and future policy directions in the area of early childhood education (ECE). This included a commitment to ensure that every child in Australia has access to a quality ECE program.
In 2013, COAG endorsed the new National Partnership Agreement on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education (NP UAECE). The NP UAECE aims to maintain universal access to quality early childhood education programs to the end of 2014, with a focus on improved participation by vulnerable and disadvantaged children. This new National Partnership extends until 31 December 2014.
The Universal Access commitment is closely underpinned by other elements of the Australian Government's early childhood reform agenda, including the Early Years Learning Framework, early childhood workforce reforms and the National Quality Standards for child care and preschool (DEEWR, 2009). Together, the intention of these reforms is to raise the quality and accessibility of ECE delivered across Australia, regardless of the preschool program setting.
Under the new NP UAECE, the states and territories have agreed to individual Bilateral Agreements with the Australian Government. These agreements specify the actions and strategies to be undertaken by each jurisdiction to maintain their Universal Access commitment to ECE, including outlining performance indicators to measure the achievement of universal access. The National Early Childhood Education and Care Collection (the Collection) is a data development activity under the National Information Agreement on Early Childhood Education and Care (NIA ECEC) and aims to improve the quality and reliability of Early Childhood Education data and support reporting requirements.
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND CARE
Responsibility for Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) is shared between the Australian Government and the state and territory governments. The ECEC is administered through a wide range of service providers including preschool, long day care, and schools (both government and non-government).
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION PROGRAM (PRESCHOOL PROGRAM)
A preschool program, also referred to as an ECE program, for the purposes of the Collection is defined as a structured, play based learning program, delivered by a degree qualified teacher, aimed primarily at children in the year or two before they commence full time schooling. This is irrespective of the type of institution that provides it or whether it is government funded and/or privately provided. This publication uses the term 'preschool program', notwithstanding that the terminology varies considerably across states and territories.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more information on the definition of a preschool program and background information see the National Early Childhood Education and Care Collection: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2013 (cat. no. 4240.0.55.001) or the Explanatory Notes section of this publication. For more information on instructions and guidelines see the National Early Childhood Education and Care Collection: Data Collection Guide, 2013 (cat. no. 4240.0.55.002).