4240.0 - Preschool Education, Australia, 2012 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 13/03/2013   
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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 (COAG, 2008a). This Universal Access commitment will ensure that by 2013, each child will have access to a preschool program that is 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
  • 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 Australian Government and the state and territory governments committed to improve 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).

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 (COAG, 2008b, DEEWR, 2009). Together, the intention of these reforms is to raise the quality and accessibility of ECE delivered across Australia, regardless of the setting.

Under the NP ECE, 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 achieve universal access to ECE, including outlining performance indicators to measure the achievement of universal access. Six performance indicators were agreed in order to measure two broader outcomes:
  • all children have access to affordable, quality early childhood education in the year before full-time schooling
  • all Indigenous four year olds in remote Indigenous communities have access to a quality early childhood education program.


Responsibility for ECEC is shared between the Australian Government and the state and territory governments, and is administered through a wide range of service providers including government, local government, community, schools (both government and non-government) and private organisations. There is a wide range of ECEC data already collected by government and non-government agencies, which is required for funding purposes.


A preschool program, for the purposes of the National ECEC Collection, is defined as a structured, play-based learning program, delivered by a degree qualified teacher, primarily aimed at children in the year before they commence full-time schooling. This is irrespective of the type of institution that provides it or whether it is government funded or privately provided. This publication uses the term 'preschool program', notwithstanding that the terminology varies considerably across state and territories.


For more information on the definition of a preschool program and background information see National Early Childhood Education and Care Collection: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 4240.0.55.001) or the Explanatory Notes section of this publication. For instructions and guidelines to assist in using the publication see National Early Childhood Education and Care Collection: Data Collection Guide (cat. no. 4240.0.55.002).