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Tuesday, 8 February 2005
Page: 186


Senator Allison asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, Science and Training, upon notice, on 17 November 2004:

(1)   How much would providing free preschool places to all 3 and 4 year olds cost.

(2)   Can a breakdown of the projected cost be provided for each age group and for each State.


Senator Vanstone (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs) —The Minister for Education, Science and Training has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

Preschool Education

Currently there is no standard provision of preschool across States and Territories. This leads to difficulties in costing such a proposal. Based on the little information available from State and Territory Budget Papers and Departmental Annual Reports, the cost of preschool provision appears to vary widely.

South Australia has estimated per pupil expenditure in the order of $5,500 while in the Australian Capital Territory the figure is $3,200. It is likely that the level of service provision also varies significantly.

Below is a table of two estimates of the cost of providing free preschool to every 3 and 4 year old in Australia based on the average unit cost estimates available for the Australian Capital Territory and South Australia and based on ABS estimates (June 2003) of a population cohort of 257,513, 3 year olds and 258,606, 4 year olds.

Cost of providing preschool services to all 3 and 4 year olds

NSW

Vic

Qld

SA

WA

Tas

NT

ACT

Aust

$m

$m

$m

$m

$m

$m

$m

$m

$m

Cost base on the SA Estimate of $5,500 per pupil

3 Year Olds

479.6

340.4

279.2

100.7

141.0

33.8

18.6

23.0

1,416.3

4 Year Olds

479.2

339.1

280.7

102.9

143.0

36.1

18.4

23.1

1,422.3

Total

958.8

679.5

559.8

203.6

284.0

69.8

37.1

46.1

2,838.7

Cost base on the ACT Estimate of $3,200 per pupil

3 Year Olds

279.0

198.1

162.4

58.6

82.1

19.7

10.8

13.4

824.0

4 Year Olds

278.8

197.3

163.3

59.9

83.2

21.0

10.7

13.4

827.5

Total

557.8

395.3

325.7

118.5

165.2

40.6

21.6

26.8

1,651.6

It is worth noting that other factors could result in lower costs. Some of these could be:

  • Pupils attending non-government facilities at no or lesser cost to the government;
  • Parents choosing not to enroll students; and
  • Economies of scale may be achieved.

Additionally, there would be savings to the Australian Government, States and Territories through lower demand for childcare and other publicly funded prior to school activities.