Preschool participation

Notes on the data: Education

Preschool: enrolments and attendances, 2021


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].


  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:

Notes: The data for 2021 have been limited to ‘Preschool’ under the ‘Sector’ category that ABS provide in the Preschool TableBuilder dataset: data published by PHIDU in previous years included children in a ‘Preschool program within centre-based day care’ and ‘Children across more than one provider type’. In the 2021 Preschool Census there were 174,018 in centre-based day care program and 40,246 children across more than one provider type.

These data are generally not published as percentages, as the age at which children commence preschool and leave preschool to enter primary school varies between jurisdictions and includes children at age three and age six. As we cannot replicate the results published by the ABS to produce a denominator that reflects these different ages across the states and territories at which children are enrolled in preschool, we have calculated the percentage of children at age four in preschool against the percentage of children in the population at this age. Unfortunately, this results in some proportions of over 100% and also occurs with those aged five, although it occurs less frequently with the total of children aged four and five years, for which data are also published. The instances over 100% occur, in part, because of the difficulty in estimating the population in small geographic areas by single-year ages. However, in order to provide an understanding of variations between geographic areas, we have calculated and published percentages. More information, including details of the ABS calculation, can be found at

Care should be taken when interpreting preschool enrolments. 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 Population Health Area, Local Government Area, Primary Health Network, Quintile of socioeconomic disadvantage of area and Remoteness Area


Numerator:  The indicators presented are:

  • Children aged 4 years, 5 years and 4 and 5-years enrolled in a preschool program
  • Children aged 4 years, 5 years and 4 and 5-years attending a preschool program

Denominator: Children aged 4 years/ 5 years/ 4 and 5 years


Source: Compiled by PHIDU based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics Preschool Education, Australia, 2021; data extracted from TableBuilder


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