Major policy reforms were instigated in 2008 in Australia to ensure that all children have access to a preschool program in the year before starting school. The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) provides a means of monitoring the impact of these reforms at the population level, as teachers of all children in their first year of school retrospectively report on children’s preschool experiences every three years. Early indications from AEDC data spanning the preschool years of 2008–2011 indicated that the proportion of children attending preschool remained relatively stable over this period. In this short communication, we update this with analysis of preschool trends from 2008 to 2014. We find evidence of increasing preschool attendance over this longer time frame (80.43% in 2008, compared to 91.30% in 2014; OR 2.53, 99% CI 2.44–2.62). Consistent with earlier data, children from disadvantaged communities had higher odds of non-attendance, compared to those living in the most advantaged communities (OR 2.94, 99% CI 2.74–3.15). In 2014, children who did not attend preschool were also disproportionately Indigenous and from non-English speaking backgrounds. Findings suggest that participation in preschool appears to have increased, concurrent to government efforts to promote participation through universal access. Engaging the most vulnerable families in preschool programs remains a major challenge that requires continued policy focus.
SOURCE: O’Connor, M. O’Connor, E. Gray, S. Goldfeld, S. “Trends in preschool attendance in Australia following major policy reform.” Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 09 October 2019.
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