As four-year-olds around the country start preschool they enter into a world of learning outside of the family home.
They engage with new environments, people, objects, and experiences for the first time, prompting millions of new neuro-connections in their brains.
A report commissioned by state and territory governments recommended we make early childhood education for both three and four-year-olds free and accessible to all Australian children.
The aptly titled Lifting our Game Report shows children who participate in early childhood education are more likely to complete year 12 and less likely to repeat grades or require additional classroom support.
This adds to a substantial body of evidence demonstrating two years of preschool gives children the best start in life and provides them with the skills to go on to achieve their full potential.
The data is clear and unanimous: quality early education delivers improved academic achievement, better behaviour, stronger social skills and prevents antisocial behaviours.
On a global stage, Australia is behind when it comes to providing three-year-old preschool.
Only 15 per cent of Australian three-year-olds currently participate in pre-primary education. Yet the OECD average is 68.6 per cent.
As per the recommendations in the Lifting Our Game report, we should be investing in early childhood education. Our nation and our children would reap the rewards of doing so
Under the current agreement between the Commonwealth and states, universal access to preschool is offered only to four-year-olds, and that funding has not been guaranteed beyond 2019.
If we are genuine about building a solid and stable workforce of qualified educators then the sector must have funding certainty.
Preschool teachers and parents should not be campaigning for funding commitments year on year. A quality education for our children should be guaranteed.
It is significant that state and territory governments are calling on the Federal Government to guarantee long-term funding for three and four-year-old preschool. With 15 hours a week of funding for four-year-olds, we have seen enrolments increase from 12 per cent to 91 per cent.
The same would happen if three-year-olds had access to preschool
Primary school teachers report that children who have not attended preschool at all start their schooling at least six months behind those that have.
And to those who think one year of preschool ‘should be plenty’, consider the skills a structured learning environment promotes.
Three-year olds who attend preschool learn to make friends, collaborate and play with others, explore new ideas, grow independent problem-solving skills, learn to manage their emotions and become confident and curious learners.
Beyond developmental skills, all three-year-olds should have the opportunity to explore foundational literacy and numeracy concepts and to building confidence in their developing skills.
The evidence is definitive. We have now moved beyond the question of whether three year old preschool will be made free and accessible in Australia. The question is when. States and territory governments want to do it now, so why wait?