A new report confirms what we have long known — investing in high quality early childhood education is an investment in our children's future health and prosperity.
The final report, Lifting Our Game, was the final part of an independent review – Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools through Early Childhood Interventions. It was commissioned by state and territory governments, and will complement the Gonski Review into education.
The report shows that children who take part in quality early childhood education have better school results, are less likely to need additional support in school and are more likely to complete Year 12.
Attendance at two years of preschool from the age of three is also linked with better employment prospects, income and financial security, improved health outcomes and reduced crime. The benefits are even greater for vulnerable and disadvantaged children.
The report highlights that investing in early childhood education will pay off in the long run — with a return of $2 to $4 for every dollar invested.
It all starts with the early years
The Education State Early Childhood Reform Plan: Ready for kinder, ready for school, ready for life reflects the Victorian Government's vision for early childhood.
Through a record $202.1 million investment, the plan sets out systemic change that is creating a higher quality, more equitable and inclusive early childhood system in Victoria.
The Department's Deputy Secretary Simon Kent says the plan was developed in response to overwhelming evidence — the early years matter.
'Early childhood is a critical time for brain development, acquisition of language and developing the ability to get along with people,' Mr Kent explains.
'By the time a child starts kindergarten, the skills that will help them throughout their lives are already well developed.'
'Because it is such a fertile time for development, children can make enormous gains quickly, meaning those children who miss out can fall behind their peers equally quickly. If children start behind, they often stay behind. Catching up is harder and more costly for everyone than starting strong.'
'At this formative stage of their development, we are taking the opportunity to help shape their life for the better.'
While the report found early childhood education investment benefits all children, this was especially the case for disadvantaged or vulnerable children.
Lifting Our Game was conducted by Ms Susan Pascoe AM and Professor Deborah Brennan.
Ms Pascoe says quality early childhood education and care is best considered as an investment — not a cost.
'These benefits are greater — often substantially so — for programs targeted at vulnerable or disadvantaged children,' she says.
'Support for these children is vital – children who start school behind their peers stay behind.
'Quality early childhood education can help stop this from happening, and break the cycle of disadvantage.'