A group of not-for-profit organisations in Canberra is putting pressure on the ACT and Federal Government to extend its preschool funding to three-year-olds.
At the moment, preschool is free for children aged four, but a newly formed group – The Children First Alliance – wants to see younger children attend preschool to improve their education later in life.
The alliance is made up of 10 service providers for young children.
Darren Black is the chair of the alliance and said Canberra children were starting on the back foot, with 20 per cent of those who started primary school being unprepared or developmentally challenged.
“We know that kids learn the most in the first five or six years of life and the environment we create during that time is absolutely vital to how they go in primary school, secondary school and through life,” he said.
“We know it has benefits from a social perspective, from a cognitive and academic perspective, and we know that translates into successful outcomes for young adults and through life.”
They also have fears our children are lagging behind the rest of the world.
In the UK, three-year-olds have benefited from subsidised preschool for 10 years, with the government now looking to expand it to two-year-olds.
“We are not doing as much as we can, the research shows us we are well behind the eight ball in terms of international benchmarks, and why, why should we accept that?” Mr Black said.
Satisfying a young mind’s thirst for knowledge
Erin and Dean Taylor are both working parents and have two young girls Lily, 3, and 18-month-old Ruby.
Their decision to send their girls to day care was not just about convenience.
“I think it is really great for them to prepare for what’s next in school,” Ms Taylor said.
And it has been made clear to them how quickly their daughters’ young minds absorb new information.
“I think as parents we tend to underestimate what they can pick up and what they learn … but Ruby just started counting to 13 and I don’t know where that came from, they just shock me all the time,” she said.
Ms Taylor said she would welcome having the option to send her girls to preschool earlier.
“I wouldn’t want her reading books and learning maths at three, but if it is more formal education catered for kids her age, as in learning things through play and those kinds of things, then absolutely.”
There is some uncertainly about the future of federal preschool funding, and while the ACT has not yet ruled it out, it has expressed concern about the cost of extending preschool funding to three-year-olds.
Education Minister Yvette Berry said with Federal Government help it was a move they would look at.
“From the ACT Government’s point of view that’s what we have been asking for, some certainty about the Federal Government’s contribution to universal access and that it be extended to three-year-olds as well,” she said.