Preschool Education, Australia

Latest release

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

Reference period
2021

Key statistics

This publication presents statistics on children enrolled in and attending a preschool program across Australia in 2021.

In 2021

  • the number of children aged 4 or 5 years old enrolled in a preschool program was 339,015, a 1.3% increase compared with 2020
  • the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 4 or 5 years old enrolled in a preschool program was 20,945, which was 5.7% higher than in 2020
  • 41% of children enrolled in a preschool program in remote/very remote areas were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
  • approximately three in four (74%) children enrolled in a preschool program paid $4 or less per hour for preschool programs after subsidies were deducted
  • 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 2 August to 8 August 2021.

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. Large parts of New South Wales and Victoria were in lockdown or under restrictions during the collection census period which severely affected preschool program delivery, with many providers closed for part or all of the census period or delivering programs remotely. Due to the temporary closure of all or part of preschool program providers in New South Wales and Victoria, attendance data for these jurisdictions are 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.  For context, the Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey September 2020 provides an indication of the effect of COVID-19 on child care arrangements. Data showed that three out of four (76%) households kept their children home due to COVID-19 in mid-May 2020, and around one in three (35%) households kept their children home at least once in a four week period during August to September 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted out-of-pocket fees data in the 2021 collection with some jurisdictions and/or service providers reducing or waiving fees.  

Children

In 2021

  • there were 339,015 children aged 4 or 5 years old enrolled in a preschool program
  • around 79% of children enrolled in a preschool program were aged 4 years and 21% were aged 5 years
  • 85% of all 4 year old and 22% 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 2021

  • there were 20,945 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 4 or 5 years old enrolled in a preschool program, representing over 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
  • 48% 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 (13%)

Enrolments by sector

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

In 2021

  • there were 174,018 children enrolled only in preschool programs delivered by centre based day care services, representing 51% of all children enrolled
  • there were 124,747 children enrolled only in preschool programs delivered by dedicated preschools, representing 37% of all children enrolled
  • there were 40,246 children enrolled in preschool programs across more than one provider type, representing 12% of all children enrolled
  • in dedicated preschools 39% were enrolled in government preschools, 59% were enrolled in non-government preschools and the remaining 2% were enrolled in more than one preschool
  • enrolments across service delivery models varied by state and territory. Western Australia (69%), Tasmania (60%), and the Northern Territory (57%) had the highest proportion of children enrolled in dedicated preschools, while Queensland (70%), New South Wales (66%) and Victoria (48%) had the highest proportion of children enrolled in preschool programs in centre based day care services
  • the number of children enrolled across more than one provider type was 40,246 an increase of 25% compared to 2020

Hourly fees

In 2021

  • there were 248,863 children (74%) enrolled in preschool programs who paid $4 or less out of pocket per hour after subsidies were deducted, of these 113,171 children paid no fees
  • there were 87,732 children (26%) enrolled in preschool programs who paid $5 or more per hour

Hourly fees by sector

In 2021

  • there were 96,008 children (78%) enrolled in dedicated preschools who paid no fees, 15,286 (12%) paid $1-$4 per hour, and 11,442 (9%) paid $5 or more per hour
  • there were 15,198 children (9%) enrolled in preschool programs in centre based day care services paid no fees, 87,930 (51%) paid $1-$4 per hour, and 70,481 (41%) paid $5 or more per hour
  • there were 1,958 children (5%) enrolled in more than one provider type who paid no fees, 32,474 (81%) paid $1-4 per hour, and 5,809 (14%) paid $5 or more per hour

Service providers

In 2021

  • there were 12,737 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 74% of preschool program providers respectively). Dedicated preschools made up the highest proportion of providers in Tasmania (62%), Western Australia (56%), and the Northern Territory (54%).

Data downloads

Preschool Education, Australia, 2021 - summary tables

Preschool Education, Australia, 2021

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4240.0.

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