By CELA on 17 Sep, 2019

The Commonwealth Government is reviewing the national funding agreement that supports all Australian children to attend 15 hours of quality early childhood education in the year before they start school.

The Review is being framed as an opportunity to provide feedback on how participation in early childhood education can be improved – more crucially, it’s an opportunity to let the Commonwealth Government know that security of Commonwealth and State funding for universal access to early childhood education in the year before school  is sorely needed.

Since 2008 the Universal Access National Partnership (UANP) has set targets for participation in early childhood education for children in the year before school across Australia. This funding mechanism supported the rise in preschool enrolments in the year before school, from just over 80 percent in 2008 to over 90 percent nationally by 2017.

This increase in early childhood education has directly benefited more than 2 million children and over a million families and contributed to reducing developmental vulnerability of children starting school as measured by the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC).

The Universal Access National Partnership is the agreement between the Commonwealth and the state and territory governments to ensure all children have access to at least 600 hours per year of quality early childhood education in the year before full-time school. In 2020 it will provide $449.5 million in Commonwealth funding to states and territories, contributing around a third to the cost of providing access to 15 hours of early childhood education per child in the year before school.

In recent years, this funding has been in place through short term funding agreements. The objectives of the current Review, being conducted by NOUS Group are to assess:

  • the degree to which the agreed objectives, outcomes and outputs of the UANP have been achieved since 2014
  • the broader benefits that have been achieved for the community and economy as a result of the UANP
  • the efficiency, effectiveness and equity of current funding, measurement and performance arrangements
  • future arrangements to maintain and improve the benefits already achieved and the benefit of pursuing any new objectives, outcomes or outputs.

In NSW alone, the funding contributes to initiatives under the state government’s Start Strong program, as well as Sector Development Programs and inclusion. Without the UANP services in NSW would be around $130 million worse off per year, and children who struggle to attend services could miss out!

The benefits of early learning are profound – developing children’s social skills, improving their communication, language, building pre-literacy and numeracy skills amongst others.

There is still much work to be done. According to the AEDC, one in five children start school behind their peers. This figure rises to one in three children in low socio-economic communities, and two in five children Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

The Universal Access National Partnership funding is crucial to supporting vulnerable learners – without it they are at risk of starting school even further behind.


What is CELA doing

  • Since May 2018, CELA has been actively advocating for the National Partnership to continue and be extended in terms of timeframe and measurable outcomes for children.
  • We have collaborated with 22 Peak Bodies and providers at a federal and state level, to deliver a strong message about the importance of a continued partnership for every child, family, our economy and nation.
  • We have made State and Commonwealth Ministerial representation on behalf of our members.
  • We are an integral part of the sector consultation with NOUS group which is conducting the Review.
  • As part of the review process CELA is currently preparing a joint submission with MCSA and University of Wollongong.

What can you do?

1. Be informed

2. Be part of CELA’s submission to the review process by completing our survey before 26 September 2019.

We will include your views in our submission and in other areas of advocacy relating to this incredibly important matter.

The survey should take less than 5 minutes to complete. All questions are optional, and your replies will be anonymous, although if you also wish to get in touch with more feedback please use email at any time.

CELA will keep you informed as we progress – it is crucial we all make our voices heard.


Complete our survey

3. Be part of the review consultation process by completing the NOUS Group Survey

We encourage you to make individual submissions on the benefits of preschool in your community, and to encourage other stakeholders to do the same. Complete the survey conducted by NOUS Group before the 6th October. You can view the discussion paper at and complete the survey here

About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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