What is universal access?
Universal access ensures that all children in Australia can go to a quality early childhood education and care program in the year before they start school.
As part of universal access, an early childhood teacher will work with your child for at least 15 hours a week for 40 weeks a year, or 600 hours a year, in a preschool, kindergarten, school or child care centre, or in some other early learning setting.
When well-trained staff with the right qualifications plan and teach early childhood education and care programs, children do well – at the time and in the future.
Universal access to early childhood education and care: why it’s important
If your child has a high-quality experience in early childhood education and care, your child is likely to do better at school. They’ll also have a better chance of keeping up with their peers, staying in school and enjoying learning right through their teenage and adult years.
Early childhood education and care is more than just making sure children are ready for school. It helps children start developing skills they’ll use in all areas of their lives, for the rest of their lives.
All children in Australia should have this opportunity to make a great start to their learning and development.
Learning happens everywhere and all the time for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Even before your child starts an early childhood education and care program, your child needs a stimulating environment with plenty of different activities that give them many ways to play and learn.
Do I have to send my child to an early childhood education and care program?
You can choose whether to send your child to an early childhood education and care program like preschool or kindergarten. It’s up to you.
If your child isn’t going to preschool or kindergarten but you’d like them to, your options for universal access might depend on which state or territory you live in.
Universal access to early childhood education and care in your state or territory
State and territory governments are responsible for education in the year before full-time school. Each state and territory government has agreed with the Australian Government about how it will make sure that children have universal access to high-quality early childhood education and care programs.
This means that your child might have different options for education in the year before full-time school. Depending on where you live, your child might be able to go to a program at a stand-alone preschool, a school or a child care centre.
Each state and territory must make sure remote families can access a program, which might include distance or online learning.
Each Australian state or territory has a different approach to preschool. What preschool is called also varies from state to state. Find out more about preschool in your state or territory.
Universal access costs
The Australian Government gives state and territory governments money to help with the cost of putting universal access into action.
This doesn’t mean that preschool or kindergarten education for your child will be free. It’s up to states and territories and providers to work out what cost, if any, will be passed on to parents for early childhood education.