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Amanda Rishworth MP: 'Why we should be sending three-year-olds to preschool.'

As parents of young children know, the development of our children’s learning starts well before they start formal education. Be it their first smile, their first steps or tying up their shoes – these are all small developments to their personal growth and learning. The years before our children start formal schooling are so important to their development, it is where they begin to learn and understand.

As a mother of a three-year-old, I am acutely aware of the benefits which preschool will have for Percy – particularly in preparing him for his first years of formal learning. This is also why I also believe it is so important that the government should continue to invest in early years learning.

Last week, Labor proudly announced that if we were to form government at the next federal election, we would provide ongoing funding to four-year-old preschool/kindergarten and, importantly, extend this to include three-year-olds.

"This is play based learning, which focuses on cognitive, social and emotional skills." (Image: Instagram)

Three-year-old preschool/kindergarten - some might say, ‘isn’t that a bit much?’ The reality is many countries are already doing it. The UK, NZ and Ireland are already offering at least two years of preschool and China has commenced implementing its plan to ensure children have access to at least two years of preschool by 2020. If we don’t act now we run the risk of falling behind.

To be clear, when we talk about preschools this isn’t children at desks, in front of blackboards. This is play based learning, which focuses on cognitive, social and emotional skills - developing our children’s memory and thinking - learning through play dough, paint and negotiating their skills in the sandpit.

When 90 per cent of the brain is developed before the age of five, we should be harnessing this time in a child’s life, helping them grow and nurture their development. That is what Labor’s National Preschool and Kindy Program has set out to do.

"Their lack of commitment in this area means there is no funding for preschool/kindy after the next school year." (Image: Instagram)

Labor’s approach will see Australian children able to access an affordable age-appropriate play-based early education program in the two years before school - boosting their success in school and beyond. This will be offered across a variety of settings, including long day care, sessional preschools and kindergartens, parents will have the flexibility to choose the services that best meets their needs.

This policy will guarantee early learning to more than 700,000 children - providing them access to quality learning and the best start to life.

Not only is this investment good for our children and their future, it is good for the future economy of our country. When research suggests that for every dollar spent on early education we, as a country, would get $2 back - possibly more - the benefits to this program are more widely accepted, even by our economists.

As the Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Development, I am extremely proud of our policy announcement - that will not only provide ongoing funding to four-year-old preschool/kindergarten but also extend to three-year-olds. This is the biggest ever investment in early childhood education in Australia and a game changer for so many Australian children’s future learning and development.