The Policies of Childcare and Early Childhood Education
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The Policies of Childcare and Early Childhood Education

Does Equal Access Matter?

Edited by Katja Repo, Maarit Alasuutari, Kirsti Karila and Johanna Lammi-Taskula

This timely book reveals how policies of childcare and early childhood education influence children’s circumstances and the daily lives of families with children. Examining how these policies are approached, it focuses particularly on the issues and pitfalls related to equal access.
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Chapter 4: The paradox of universal access: alleviating or perpetuating inequity for children in New South Wales, Australia

Zsuzsa Millei and Jannelle Gallagher


In New South Wales, Australia, universal access met with a fragmented system that has high fees, low participation rates and a three-prong model of service delivery, which includes government, community and private services. This system has struggled to accommodate universal access, which is 15 hours per week of quality early childhood education for all four- and five-year-old children, especially targeting those from disadvantaged backgrounds. This chapter provides a place-based analysis of the implementation of universal access in a New South Wales preschool in Australia. By successfully grappling with retargeted funding to support the implementation of universal access, the example preschool’s demographic composition has profoundly changed. It had a disproportionately larger number of children requiring additional support bringing significant shifts in everyday pedagogical work. In order to continue to provide a high-quality education, the preschool relied on an already underappreciated and underpaid workforce’s resilience, unrecognized work and emotional labour. While the aim was primarily to give access to affordable and quality early education for disadvantaged children, through our analysis we demonstrate that universal access has a cunning ability to produce uneven progress across places and to continue reproducing inequality.

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