Universal access to early childhood eduction
5. Implement universal access to quality early childhood education programs for all three-year-olds
Early childhood education currently focuses on children aged 4-5 years in the year before they commence school. However, evidence shows the importance of including 3-year-old children, especially for disadvantaged children, who should be prioritised for access, as two years of early education has proven to have better outcomes compared to just one year.
The early years shape the rest of a child’s life, with early child development setting the foundation for lifelong learning, behaviour, and health. Inequities experienced by children at a young age can significantly undermine their physical, social and emotional development, often resulting in poorer health outcomes in adulthood.
These effects last a lifetime, with some children impacted disproportionately, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, and children with a disability. Initiatives such as universal access to quality early childhood education programs for all 3-year-olds is a chance for Australia to prevent an accumulation of disadvantage and health inequities throughout the life course and have a positive impact on the health system and health outcomes for all people.