Preschool participation

Notes on the data: Education

Preschool participation, children aged 3 to 4 years, 2016


Policy context: Research has shown that positive educational and life outcomes for children, particularly those from more disadvantaged backgrounds is linked to participation in a quality preschool program (Rosier and McDonald 2011). Participation in high quality preschool supports school readiness as children were found to perform better at school with these benefits persisting over time. Children who attended preschool were found to outperform those who did not across all elements of national assessment results for Year 3 students, they include numeracy, reading, spelling, writing and grammar (Department of Education and Training 2017).

At the 2016 Census, 44.3 percent of 3 to 4 year olds in Australia participated in preschool education, this was slightly higher than the 43.9 percent of 3 to 4 year olds who participated in preschool education at the 2011 Census.

The number of children in preschool education shown here are estimates. Ideally, these data would be based on enrolment data from the three school systems (i.e., government schools and non-government schools, both in the Catholic schools sector and in other non-government (independent) schools). However, such data are not available in a form suitable for showing variations between population groups, for which we need geographic data by area of residence of the child.

As preschool participation is important information, data from the 2016 Population Census have been used as a proxy for enrolments. This approach introduces a number of problems, in particular for data by Indigenous status, where the numbers of Aboriginal students at the Population Health Area level can be quite small. In addition, in order to have a numerator (the number of preschool students) and a denominator (children of preschool age) that are comparable, it was necessary to specify an age range for preschool students: for this analysis the age range was set at ages three and four, the predominant ages of children in preschool.


  1. Department of Education and Training. How is the Government supporting access to preschool education? Factsheet, July 2017, accessed 9 April 2018. Available from:
  2. Rosier K. & McDonald, M. Promoting positive education and care transitions for children. Child Family Community Australia Resource Sheet, November 2011. Australian Institute of Family Studies, accessed 9 April 2018. Available from:

Notes: The numerator excludes 7.2% of the population aged 3 to 4 years whose participation in preschool education was not stated: however, these records are included in the denominator.


Geography: Data available by Population Health Area, Local Government Area, Primary Health Network, Quintiles and Remoteness Areas


Numerator: People aged 3 to 4 years who participated in preschool education


Denominator: Usual Resident Population aged 3 to 4 years


Source: Compiled by PHIDU based on the ABS Census of Population and Housing, August 2016.


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