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Preschool Education, Australia

Statistics about preschool education, including enrolment, attendance, fees and service providers

Reference period
2020

Key statistics

This publication presents statistics on children enrolled in and attending a preschool program across Australia in 2020.

In 2020

  • the number of children aged 4 or 5 years old enrolled in a preschool program was 334,823, a 0.3% decline compared with 2019
  • the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 4 or 5 years old enrolled in a preschool program was 19,815
  • 41% of children enrolled in a preschool program in remote/very remote areas were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
  • over three in four (76%) children enrolled in a preschool program paid $4 or less per hour for preschool programs after subsidies were deducted, of these around two in five (42%) paid no fees
  • 21% of all children enrolled in a preschool program resided in the fifth SEIFA quintile (least disadvantaged) while 17% resided in the first quintile (most disadvantaged). The largest group of children (23%) resided in the fourth SEIFA quintile

Impacts of COVID-19 in this publication

Care should be taken when interpreting the results in this publication. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, various restrictions were in place when the National Early Childhood Education and Care Collection (NECECC) was conducted during the census period 3 August to 9 August 2020.

Initiatives to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community impacted how service providers delivered early childhood education programs. This may affect attendance and enrolment data across jurisdictions. Restrictions in Victoria during the collection census period severely affected preschool program delivery, with many providers closed or delivering programs remotely. Due to the temporary closure of preschool program providers in Victoria, attendance data for that jurisdiction is not published this year.

Enrolment and attendance data may also be impacted by decisions of parents/guardians about sending children to early childhood education and care (ECEC) providers during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey showed that three out of four (76%) households kept their children home due to COVID-19 in mid-May, and around one in three (35%) households kept their children home at least once in a four week period during August to September 2020.

Broader economic impacts from the pandemic such as parent or guardians’ job loss, decrease in hours worked, or a shift to remote working may have impacted the need or capacity to enrol or send children to a preschool program provider. 

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted out-of-pocket fees data in the 2020 collection with some jurisdictions and/or service providers reducing or waiving fees.  As the data was collected for the period 3 August to 9 August 2020, the data will not capture initiatives to reduce or waive fees at other times during 2020. 

Children

In 2020

  • there were 334,823 children aged 4 or 5 years old enrolled in a preschool program
  • around 80% of children enrolled in a preschool program were aged 4 years and 20% were aged 5 years
  • over 81% of all 4 year old and 17% of all 5 year old children were enrolled in preschool programs
  • over 95% of children enrolled were enrolled for 15 hours or more per week

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

In 2020

  • there were 19,815 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 4 or 5 years old enrolled in a preschool program, representing almost 6% of all children enrolled in preschool programs
  • over 95% of enrolled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were enrolled for 15 hours or more per week
  • 47% of enrolled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were enrolled in preschool programs in inner and outer regional areas followed by major cities (39%) and remote and very remote areas (14%)
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Enrolments by sector

Preschool programs are delivered through centre based day care services, or through dedicated preschools.

In 2020

  • there were 168,695 children enrolled only in preschool programs delivered by centre based day care services, representing 50% of all children enrolled
  • there were 134,056 children enrolled only in preschool programs delivered by dedicated preschools, representing 40% of all children enrolled
  • there were 32,074 children enrolled in preschool programs across more than one provider type, representing 10% of all children enrolled
  • in dedicated preschools 39% were enrolled in government preschools, 59% were enrolled in non-government preschools and the remaining 1% were enrolled in more than one preschool
  • enrolments across service delivery models varied by state and territory. Western Australia (74%), Tasmania (62%), and the Northern Territory (62%) had the highest proportion of children enrolled in dedicated preschools, while Queensland (69%), New South Wales (66%) and Victoria (46%) had the highest proportion of children enrolled in preschool programs in centre based day care services
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Hourly fees

In 2020

  • there were 254,512 children enrolled in preschool programs who paid $4 or less out of pocket per hour after subsidies were deducted, of these 106,989 (42%) children paid no fees. The increase in the number of households paying no fees (45% compared with 2019) is due to fee reduction programs in place due to COVID-19 (see COVID-19 impacts in this publication)
  • there were 79,756 children (almost 24%) enrolled in preschool programs who paid $5 or more per hour
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Hourly fees by sector

In 2020

  • there were 118,203 children enrolled in dedicated preschools who paid $4 or less per hour, of these 92,602 paid no fees
  • there were 108,755 children enrolled in preschool programs in centre based day care services who paid $4 or less per hour, of these 12,552 paid no fees
  • 69% of all children enrolled in dedicated preschools paid no fees, 19% paid $1-$4 per hour, and over 11% paid $5 or more per hour
  • 7% of all children enrolled in preschool programs in centre based day care services paid no fees, 57% paid $1-$4 per hour, and 36% paid $5 or more per hour
  • of children who were enrolled in more than one provider type, 6% paid no fees, 80% paid $1-$4 per hour, and 14% paid $5 or more per hour

Service providers

In 2020

  • there were 12,416 service providers delivering a preschool program to children aged 3 to 6 years
  • around one in three (34%)  preschool program providers were dedicated preschools
  • nearly two out of three (66%) preschool program providers were centre based day care services
  • service delivery models differ across the states and territories. New South Wales and Queensland have largely centre based day care delivery models (accounting for 80% and 73% of preschool program providers respectively). Dedicated preschools made up the highest proportion of providers in Tasmania (61%), Western Australia (57%), and the Northern Territory (54%).

Data downloads

Preschool Education, Australia, 2020 - summary tables

Preschool Education, Australia, 2020

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4240.0.