Three year olds will benefit from early learning program

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

In October last year, Bill Shorten announced that, if elected, Labor would extend the universal kindy program to include three-year-olds.

It was therefore encouraging to see on the front page of yesterday’s The Courier-Mail there appears to be growing support for this policy and commitment which will benefit more than 61,000 three-year-olds in Queensland.

Talking and engaging with those in the early education sector for some time now, it has been clear to those who have been listening that one of the single best investments we can make as policy makers is in the early development of our youngest minds.

This is what led to the announcement of  Labor’s National Preschool and Kindy Program which will be the single biggest investment in early education in Australian history.

This policy will guarantee ongoing funding to four-year-old preschool and kinder children but, importantly, extend that program to include three-year-olds.

Providing subsidised access to play-based early learning in the two years before formal schooling is an investment in our youngest citizens and in the future of our country.

The evidence from both here and around the world is clear on the educational, social and economic benefits which two years of quality early learning has both for the wellbeing of our children and for our economy.

This period of quality early learning not only helps children get ahead in life but the research also shows the benefit-to-cost ratio range starts at 2.6 which means that, as a country, the return is at least $2 for every dollar spent and potentially a lot more.

From demographic information available on children and families in Queensland we know the areas which would benefit most from federal government support. These include the electorates of Rankin, covering a swath of Brisbane’s southwestern suburbs from Daisy Hill to Browns Plains, with more than 3100 three-year-olds; Forde, also taking in parts of Logan and south to Coomera, with more than 2600 three-year-olds; and Dickson to the north of Brisbane where there are more than 2050 littlies.

While of course learning begins in the home well before our children start school, the skills developed through formal early learning should not be underestimated.

Play-based learning focuses on cognitive, social and emotional skills – developing our children’s memory and thinking. Children also learn to listen, take direction, make friends and develop emotionally.

While Labor’s policy is focused on lifting the educational achievement of all children, it is especially valuable for those children who are vulnerable or come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Early education experts are clear there needs to be greater investment in the area of early education and in particular in three-year-old kindy. It’s a question of priorities and Labor have made it a priority to give our children the best possible start in life.

This opinion piece was first published in The Courier-Mail on Tuesday, 12 March 2019.

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