A great start in life is critical for lifelong learning, health and wellbeing. Quality early childhood education and care makes an important contribution to children’s educational and developmental outcomes. In 2020–21, as Regulatory Authority, we actively monitored the quality and safety of Queensland’s more than 3,000 approved early childhood education and care services. We work hard to ensure all Queensland children have access to a quality kindergarten program, regardless of location or circumstance, while ensuring flexibility, innovation and support for workforce development.
An Early Years Plan for Queensland
In October 2020, we published a whole-of-government Early Years Plan and Queensland Children’s Wellbeing Framework. The plan outlines the actions the Queensland Government is taking to support Queensland children’s early learning, health and wellbeing from conception to their transition to the first years of schooling.
The Queensland Children’s Wellbeing Framework recognises that we all play a part in children's wellbeing and sets out the shared commitments of government and the community to help achieve these aspirations.
Early Years Places
Early Years Places (EYP) enable families to access multiple services, or referrals to specialist services, for their children and themselves.
In 2020–21, the Queensland Government invested $26.2 million for EYPs in more than 50 communities to deliver a range of integrated services to enable a confident start to life for Queensland children and their families.
Each EYP has a different mix of programs, which can include playgroup, early childhood education and care, health services, and family and parenting support.
More than 90% of parents reported having improved engagement with their children because of the programs and activities provided. Moreover, 82% reported that the EYP assisted them in accessing other support services they needed. During the pandemic, EYP adapted quickly to the new environment offering innovative services, such as virtual playgroup through Facebook, and home learning and development activity packs.
We continued the KindyLinQ pilot program, launched in 2020, for 3-year-old children and their families in 40 schools, in priority locations.
The program is informed by the Early Years Learning Framework, which places a specific emphasis on play-based holistic learning. This approach to learning recognises the importance of communication, language, and social and emotional development. KindyLinQ provides a safe space for young children to play, explore, sing, create and socialise with their parents, other children and experienced staff. The program also offers guidance for families about how to support their child’s learning and development at home and manage a successful transition to kindergarten.
Extending State Delivered Kindergarten
Making kindergarten available across the state, including in regional and remote communities to support all families and children, is a key priority for the Department. The Queensland Government is investing $12 million over 4 years to expand State Delivered Kindergarten to include an extra 20 schools. These schools were announced in May 2021 and are located at least 40 kilometres from the nearest approved Kindergarten Program Provider.
The program provides children in rural and remote communities the opportunity to attend a kindergarten program in a face-to-face environment in selected state schools. The program is delivered by, or has access to, an early childhood teacher in composite and non-composite settings.
Continuing the Play Stars initiative
Our Play Stars initiative supports families to access and participate in a local playgroup during a child’s first year of life. The Play Stars initiative will be continued for three years to increase the reach of quality, age-appropriate playgroups—especially in areas where families and children are at risk of experiencing vulnerability.
The initiative was particularly important during 2020, when Playgroup Queensland provided Playgroup at Home activities via a virtual platform. Playgroup at Home helped reduce isolation for new parents, carers and their children and supported them to transition into local playgroups when it was safe to do so again.
Service area performance
The following service standards in our Service Delivery Statement 2020–21 are used by the Department and the Government to assess overall performance of this service area.
Early Childhood Education and Care performance measures
Proportion of Queensland children enrolled in an early childhood education program1, 2, 3, 4
Proportion of enrolments in an early childhood education program1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Children who reside in disadvantaged areas7
Proportion of children developmentally on track on 4 or more (of 5) Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) domains8, 9
Government expenditure per child—kindergarten10
- The National Early Childhood Education and Care Census is conducted in the first week of August each year. Data is published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in the Preschool Education, Australia publication.
- The nationally agreed benchmark established under the National Partnership Agreement (NPA) on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education is 95%. Under the NPA for Universal Access to Early Childhood Education, Queensland is committed to achieving and maintaining access to an early childhood education program for all children in the year before full-time school.
- Early childhood education program: a quality play-based program aligned to an approved kindergarten learning program delivered by a degree-qualified early childhood teacher to children in the year before full-time school.
- This service standard represents the proportion of children enrolled from each cohort group as a proportion of the estimated total population for that cohort group in Queensland.
- Results over 100% are possible as the nationally agreed measure is the number of children enrolled (aged 4 or 5) divided by the estimated resident population of 4-year-olds.
- Indigenous: a person who identifies at enrolment to be of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin. The 95% target represents the benchmarks set for kindergarten performance under the NPA on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education. In 2020, the kindergarten participation rate for Indigenous children exceeded 95% for the second time.
- Disadvantaged: a person who resides in statistical areas classified by the ABS in the bottom quintile using the Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage. The 95% target represents the benchmarks set for kindergarten performance under the NPA on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education. The participation rate for children living in disadvantaged areas continues to remain below the 95% target.
- The AEDC is a population measure of how children have developed by the time they start school. Data is captured on 5 domains of early childhood development: physical health and wellbeing, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills, and communication skills and general knowledge. It is a national census based on a large population, which tends to change incrementally.
- The census is conducted every 3 years with the next census to be conducted in 2021. The results will not be received by the department until 2022.
- The 2020–21 actual figure is based on the most recent data published in the 2021 Report on Government Services. The higher than expected government expenditure per child can be attributed to changes in ABS counting rules which resulted in fewer children than expected reported as enrolled in a kindergarten program in 2019.