Preschooling campaign seeks equality

The NSW Government’s announcement of 100 new public preschools is a significant first step towards Federation’s campaign for universal, public preschool education.

Children experiencing disadvantage and vulnerability are likely to benefit most from preschool but are less likely to attend.

“Preschool matters,” Federation Senior Vice President Natasha Watt said. “Research consistently demonstrates that children who experience a lack of success in their early years of schooling are most likely to fall behind their advantaged peers, resulting in poorer life outcomes such as unemployment, school disengagement and early school leaving.”

Free, universally accessible public preschooling will support all children to achieve excellence and equality in their school learning outcomes and beyond. Federation is campaigning for all children to be afforded the right to access two years of public preschool education at their local, secular, fee-free, government funded and well-resourced preschool, co-located on the site of their local public school.

Universal access means access regardless of family, socioeconomic or location context. It also means cultural safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and specialist public preschool provision for children with disability and children from families experiencing vulnerability and/or disadvantage.

Our campaign also seeks an ongoing commitment to a child-centric, needs-based funding model, and the protection and regulation of the system through relevant legal, industrial and policy mechanisms.

Our vision — for all children to have access to a public, secular, fee-free, government funded and well-resourced preschool, co-located on the site of their local public school — received a boost in February. The Minns Government announced the locations for 100 new public preschools, colocated with public schools, to be built in the next three years and costing $769 million.

Federation President Henry Rajendra told February Council the announcement was the result of Federation elevating the importance of public preschooling.

“If we had not done the work that we did, there would not have been a single announcement around anything to do with preschooling.

“After that state election in 2019, Federation lobbied both major parties and by June 2022, the Perrottet government was promising the expansion of preschooling across NSW over a 10-year period and a week later, the Labor opposition matched that but said they’d do it two years quicker. The work, then, was on to pressure both major parties and therefore we have what we have today,” Mr Rajendra said.

The fulfilment of the Minns Government’s promise will double the number of public preschools in NSW.

Currently there are 101 public preschools (many not on public school sites), providing about 2700 full-time equivalent places. There are also 11 preschools designed specifically for Aboriginal children and 13 established to serve communities with high numbers of Aboriginal children.

“This leaves us with approximately 1500 sites without a public preschool, so it’s the beginning; it cannot be the end,” Mr Rajendra said.

Currently there are just 43 early intervention units (which operate as support classes) for preschool aged children on public school sites, 27 of which are located on public school sites that are without an attached preschool. “The Department of Education’s own policy says that for children with disabilities, they should be attending an early intervention program and attending preschool as well, so that does not make sense at all,” Mr Rajendra said.

Early intervention units and classes must be accessible to all children with a disability at their local public preschool, co-located on the site of their local public school.


Quality public preschooling is a precursor for a child’s future success, so Federation has developed a blueprint for ensuring the public preschool workforce is supported to deliver quality preschool education.

Conditions outlined in Federation’s “Universal Public Preschool Education” February 2024 Council decision include:

  • permanent, university-qualified, NESAaccredited early childhood teachers
  • specialist early childhood itinerant support teachers, early childhood teachers who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
  • teachers with qualifications in educating children with disabilities and children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
  • dual-qualified preschool counsellors
  • preschools supported by the requisite school executives with early childhood qualifications and experience
  • an early intervention unit for each public preschool (critical for children with disabilities)
  • strong system support, including experienced non school–based teachers
  • ongoing Department-driven workforce planning
  • competitive pay commensurate with teachers across the key stages, which ensures a strong supply of qualified early childhood teachers
  • supportive partnerships with NSW Health, including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Service, to deliver timely access to registered nursing and allied health professionals
  • partnerships with other relevant government agencies
  • fit-for-purpose infrastructure, built and maintained to a high standard to meet local needs
  • purpose-built spaces that promote cultural safety
  • stimulating green spaces for children to play and learn
  • support for early childhood teachers to gain and maintain mandatory Proficient Teacher accreditation and voluntary Highly Accomplished and Lead Teacher accreditation in the same way as their school-based teaching colleagues, with a focus on the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers
  • a strong curriculum that prepares preschoolers for quality outcomes.


“Young students are falling through the cracks, cracks public preschools could fill,” Federation Vice President Amy Harland and assistant principal at Westport Public School said.

“In my school, which educates students from low SES backgrounds and does not have a preschool on site, we have 53 students in kindergarten this year, of which 14 did not attend preschool, 11 are turning five this year and amny have complex individual learning needs,” Ms Harland told February Council. “This is what’s already been identified and kindergarten have been at school for eight days. Often the students identified as requiring extra support are those that haven’t been to preschool, and they’ve missed all the opportunities to have help and get the support.

“Preschools in every public school must be a priority for this government. The y must give students the start they deserve. Public preschools give children a chance to learn how to be at school and get all those early school-readiness skills under their belt. It will also enable schools to have students start kindergarten when they are ready, not a year earlier because it’s cheaper to send them to kindy and repeat than to pay a year extra at a private preschool.”