The Department contracted the Australian Institute of Family Studies to undertake a critical review of the key and influential evidence on the value of preschool for three year olds, Indigenous children and those from disadvantaged backgrounds and the applicability of the international evidence to the Australian context.
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AIFS canvassed literature from Australia, UK, USA, Canada and Europe and selected the seven early childhood programs considered to be the most influential, highly referenced and evaluated studies since 1960.
The report notes that there is very limited Australian evidence about the impact of preschool for all three year olds. Based predominately on the international literature, it found: scant evidence to make the case for universal access for three year olds, but acknowledgement that high quality three year old preschool exposure has long term benefits for disadvantaged children, with a number of the studies showing that benefits extended into adolescence and/or adulthood; 15 hours of preschool per week might not be sufficient to benefit disadvantaged children; quality of programs, using qualifications of staff as a proxy, is important; and any gains from preschool at this age need to be sustained thorughout the education system.