Eight: Early education and care in Australia: Equity in a mixed market-based system?

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This chapter examines the extent to which disadvantaged children are able to access high quality early childhood education and care in Australia. It describes current national initiatives include an aspiration to provide all children with high quality preschool, staffed by trained teachers, in the year before school entry, and efforts to improve quality through an early years learning framework. However, the chapter also points to considerable remaining local and state variation, and to concerns about whether children from lower income families will be priced out by quality improvements. The preschool offer is not free, although it is intended that cost should not be a barrier to entry. Enrolment is not universal and children from low income families are less likely to attend than their higher income peers. A further complicating factor in the Australian context is the large role that has been played by the private sector, including for-profit providers.

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