4240.0.55.001 - National Early Childhood Education and Care Collection Manual, 2010  
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Contents >> Collection Background and Governance >> The National Partnership Agreement on Early Childhood Education


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 Commonwealth and the state and territory governments to encourage substantial reform in the areas of education, skills and early childhood development. Following this, in 2008 COAG endorsed a comprehensive set of goals, outcomes, progress measures and future policy directions in the area of early childhood education (ECE). Among other outcomes, COAG made a commitment to ensure that every child has universal access to a quality ECE program (COAG, 2008a). This Universal Access commitment will ensure that by 2013, each child will have access to a preschool program delivered:

  • in the 12 months prior to full-time schooling (also referred to as the year before formal schooling);
  • by a four-year university-qualified early childhood teacher;
  • for 15 hours a week, 40 weeks a year;
  • across a diversity of settings;
  • in a form that meets the needs of parents; and
  • at a cost that does not present a barrier to participation (COAG, 2008a).

In November 2008, COAG endorsed the National Partnership Agreement on Early Childhood Education (NP ECE). Under the NP ECE the Commonwealth, state and territory governments committed to improving the supply and integration of early childhood services, including child care and early learning and development. This will be achieved through the delivery of the universal access commitment (COAG, 2008a).

This commitment provides a comprehensive and national approach to preschool education in Australia. It aims to increase participation rates of young children in preschool, particularly for Indigenous and disadvantaged children, ensuring that cost is not a barrier to access. Universal access extends to providing an increase in program hours available to children, and to strengthening the quality and consistency of preschool programs (COAG, 2008a). The commitment is closely underpinned by other elements of the Australian Government’s early childhood reform agenda, including the development of the Early Years Learning Framework, early childhood workforce reforms and the development of the National Quality Standards for child care and preschool (COAG, 2008b, DEEWR, 2009). Together, the intention of these reforms is to raise the quality of ECE delivered across Australia, regardless of the setting, and to improve access for disadvantaged children to early learning opportunities.

Under the NP ECE, the states and territories have agreed to individual Bilateral Agreements with the Commonwealth. These Agreements specify the actions and strategies to be undertaken by each jurisdiction to achieve universal access to ECE. The actions and strategies vary across jurisdictions to take into account the different challenges facing each jurisdiction. The Agreements also detail performance benchmarks, that each state and territory has committed to achieving, including participation rates (with an emphasis on children from disadvantaged backgrounds and Indigenous children), hours, teachers and cost. The Bilateral Agreements specify that universal access will be achieved if 95% (or more) of children in Australia are enrolled and attending a preschool program that meets the universal access criteria, in the year before full-time schooling. The benchmark of 95% was chosen because attendance at a preschool program is not compulsory in any state or territory in Australia. For more information on the Bilateral Agreements, see the Federal Financial Relations website:


The National Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) Collection was conducted for the first time through jurisdictional administrative collections in 2010, as a data improvement project under the NP ECE and the National Information Agreement on Early Childhood Education and Care (NIA ECEC).

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