Notes on the data: Education

Aboriginal  and non-indigenous children aged 4 or 5 enrolled in a preschool program for less than 15 hours, 15 hours or more per week and total hours, 2020


Policy context: Research has shown that positive educational and life outcomes for children, particularly those from more disadvantaged backgrounds, are linked to participation in a quality preschool program [1]. 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, including numeracy, reading, spelling, writing and grammar [2].

The educational trajectories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are different from non-Indigenous Australians. The Australian Government has in the last decade increasingly recognised the importance of quality early childhood education to be fundamental in improving the future educational outcomes for Indigenous children and how this could help in closing the gap in later educational outcomes as measured compared with non-Indigenous children [3].

Some 91% of children aged four or five years enrolled in a preschool were enrolled for 15 hours or more per week. For aboriginal children, 76.8% of enrolments were for 15 hours or more per week, while for non-indigenous children this was 85.1%. Note that indigenous status was not recorded for all students, hence the greater percentage for all children compared to aboriginal and non-iindigenous children.

The 2019 Closing the Gap report highlighted attending early childhood education services is linked to better social and developmental skills which can assist children's developmental readiness for school as measured by the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC). Increasing the preschool attendance levels was adjudged to have a larger effect on the school readiness of Indigenous children despite the fact that they had lower rates of preschool attendance than non-Indigenous children [4, 5].

Since the introduction of the Closing the Gap initiative in 2008, the enrolments of Indigenous children in early childhood education improved with 15,718 Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander children enrolled in early childhood education in 2017, a 7.2 % increase from 2016; increasing the proportion of Indigenous children enrolled from 91% to 95% in the same period. According to the 2019 Closing the Gap report, attendance in Indigenous early childhood programs is also on track to meet 2025 targets in all States and Territories apart from the Northern Territory [4].


  1. 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:
  2. Department of Education and Training. How is the Government supporting access to preschool education? Factsheet, July 2017, accessed 9 April 2018. Available from:
  3. Moyle K. Literature review: Indigenous early childhood education, school readiness and transition programs into primary school 2019. Camberwell, Australia: Australian Council for Education Research.2019. Available from:
  4. Commonwealth of Australia, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Closing the Gap Prime Minister’s Report 2019. Commonwealth of Australia 2019, Accessed 29 November 2109. Available from

Notes: The use of the sum of four and five year old children as the denominator was necessary as the ABS have used a calculation (which cannot be replicated at the IARE level), to produce a denominator that reflects the different ages across the states and territories at which children are enrolled in preschool. Had we published the data separately for four and for five year old children, many IAREs would have had over 100% of the four year old cohort as enrolled in a preschool program; and for the five year old cohort the data for a majority of IAREs would have been suppressed, due to small numbers. Despite combining the ages there is, however, a small number of areas with percentages in excess of 100%. In addition, it should be noted that in 2020, there were some 8,541 Aboriginal children aged three or six enrolled in a preschool program.

Care should be taken when interpreting preschool enrolments data for 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, various restrictions were in place when the National Early Childhood Education and Care Collection (NECECC) was conducted. Due to the temporary closure of preschool program providers in Victoria, attendance data for Victoria are not published.


Geography: Data available by Indigenous Area, Primary Health Network, Quintile of socioeconomic outcomes (based on IRSEO) and Remoteness Area


Numerator:  Children aged 4 or 5 enrolled in a preschool program, by number of hours enrolled (enrolled for less than 15 hours, or 15 hours or more per week)


Denominator: Aboriginal or non-indigenous 2020 estimated resident population of children aged 4 or 5


Source: Compiled by PHIDU based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Preschool Education, Australia, 2020 (data extracted from Survey TableBuilder) and estimated resident population (PHIDU)


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