The Christmas holidays have come and gone for another year and it’s back to school for most students in the Hunter region this week.
It’s no secret early education is crucial for our children. Between 85 and 90 percent of brain development happens in the first five years of life. In these years we form skills that are essential to lifelong learning, behaviour and health.
A study from the Australia Centre for Independent Studies recently revealed the language and literary levels in children entering school are worsening. Around 20 percent of students don’t understand enough words when they enter school to be able to learn how to read or follow other subjects properly. This number rises significantly to 30 percent in disadvantaged areas. Preschool helps change these statistics. It helps bridge the gap.
Yet the reality is that one of the biggest barriers to accessing early education is finance. In 2008, the former Labor Government introduced universal funding for preschool for four year olds to help ease this pressure. This saw a huge increase in enrolments from 77 percent to almost 93 percent.
But the Coalition Government abandoned this commitment. Beyond 2019, the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Governments have failed to allocate any funding in the federal budget for four-year-olds to attend preschool. Over 2,500 four-year-olds in the electorate of Paterson, and 350,000 children across Australia, families who access preschool from 2020 will be left in limbo, as are the service providers and educators.
In October last year, Labor announced our plans to extend preschool access to three year olds and commit to ongoing funding for four year old preschool. Labor’s National Preschool and Kindy Program will see a $509 million investment for children in New South Wales and deliver two years of subsidised early learning. This is the biggest ever investment in early education for children in New South Wales.
In my electorate of Paterson alone, $3.15 million dollars has been committed so local families can access 15 hours of subsidised care per week. Because every child in Australia deserves access to quality education - regardless of their parent’s income. Education is an investment worth making. Labor will give children the early learning opportunities for the best start in life.