BY assistant Prof Bruce Baer Arnold
THE ACT government has set a goal of 15 hours per week, 600 hours per year of free, universal quality early childhood education for children aged three, says Minister for Education and Early Childhood Development Yvette Berry.Ms Berry says well established research evidence has shown that the period from birth through to eight years, especially the first three years, sets the foundation for every child’s social, physical, emotional and cognitive development.
“The ACT government has accepted the overwhelming evidence cumulating in this recommendation and decided in-principle that a plan for incremental implementation of free, universal quality early childhood education should be a key part of the ACT Early Childhood Strategy currently being developed,” she says.
“This policy objective clearly comes with a financial cost and its incremental implementation will require careful design of a model that is affordable, sustainable, but more importantly keeps the right focus.
“It also means maintaining the pressure on the federal government to match its rhetoric in early childhood education with a sustained commitment to partnership funding.
“Just as with school education, early childhood education needs to be focused on helping each child to gain a strong start with government funding flowing to the greatest extent to achieving learning and development.
“For this reason the government will be shaping the design of this policy around a non-commercial model in the same way we approach school education.”
Over the coming months Ms Berry will be having conversations with parents, the early childhood education sector, schools and the wider community about how, and when, the government will be able to make this opportunity universally available.
Information about development of the ACT Early Childhood Strategy is available at yoursay.act.gov.au.