Access to early childhood education in Australia

Research Report No. 24 – April 2013

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Appendix D: Analyses of parental decision-making

The fact that participation in ECE is voluntary for children in the year prior to full-time schooling will mean that an enrolment rate of 100% may not be achieved. Even if accessibility and cost are not barriers to children's participation in early education, parents may elect to keep children out of any formal learning until they are required to enter school. In this section, we attempt to see to what extent this currently occurs. We also report on the extent to which parents report that they experience barriers to children's enrolment in early education.

While estimates of the proportion of children not in ECE are not precise, we can explore this group of children a little more closely by analysing the reasons that parents give for their children not attending early education, or the reasons for choosing particular forms of ECE or child care. Very detailed analysis is not possible as sample sizes are often quite small. Also, being based on survey data, the analysis is limited by the response options available. These options do not necessarily provide sufficient information to fully understand the decisions made and the barriers that are relevant to children's participation in early education.


For children in the NSPCCC who were in no formal child care or ECE the year before full-time schooling (N = 289), parents were asked why this was so. This question specifically asked why family day care and LDC were not used, so parents were not necessarily thinking about preschool participation when answering this question. The most common separately identified response of parents related to their valuing the importance of home care for children (22% of parents). Significant numbers were coded to a range of options, all of which reflected that a parent was at home to care for the child, and care was not needed (39% of parents). There was little overlap in the reporting of these two reasons (just 3% gave responses that were coded in each of these categories). This left 41% of parents giving other reasons. This included having a lack of trust in formal child care (9%), having friends of family looking after the child (5.5%), reporting that the child care was too far away (6%), was too expensive (16%) or too difficult to get into (1%). A large number of responses were recorded as "other" (14%).D1

For the children in the NSPCCC who were not attending preschool, questions were asked about why this was so. Note that this was separate to the question discussed above about non-participation in formal care. For reasons that are not clear, only one-quarter of the parents answered this question (out of 411 children who were not in ECE in the year before they were predicted to be starting full-time schooling, 102 gave responses to this question).D2 Of these, 36% said the child was too young, 5% said non-participation was related to the affordability of preschool, 5% said that preschool was not available, 33% gave other reasons, and 19% said that they did not know why.

In NSPCCC, for school-aged children who had not attended preschool (5% of children, N = 59), parents were also asked why this was so. Of these, 5.6% gave answers relating to there being no places available and 14% gave reasons indicating that they could not afford it. The remaining 82% were coded to "other reasons".D3


A similar mix of reasons is found when the LSAC data are used (B cohort, Wave 3). As for the abovementioned question in NSPCCC, if applicable, parents of 4-5 year old children who were expected to start full-time schooling next year were asked why children were in no child care or ECE ("What is the main reason the Study Child does not attend school, pre-school, kindergarten or a long day care centre?"). This applied to 158 children. The largest response groups were "parent is available - not needed" (20%), "child does not need it" (19%), followed by "can't afford it - cost too high" (16%), "other - quality/program issues" (12%), "child is too young or old" (10%), "problems with getting places" (9%), and "other - accessibility or affordability" (7%).D4


A similar question was asked in CEaCS. Of children aged 4-8 years who were in school and had not attended preschool or LDC prior to school (19% of children in this age group, N = 377, had not attended), the main reason given was "prefer to care for child at home" (73%). Except for "other reasons" (15%), the next most common reason given for children having not attended preschool or LDC was having moved from interstate or overseas (6%).


D1 Parents were asked to provide a main reason and any other reasons. Response options on the questionnaire were "belief in importance of home care" and "lack of trust in formal child care". Other reasons were recorded as text and later coded into response categories. The figure cited here for there being a parent at home to care for the child included response categories "not working (stay at home parent)", "not working (other reasons)", "at home - no need - available to do it", "maternity leave" and "flexible working hours".

D2 Respondents may have skipped this question if they had previously answered the question about non-participation in formal care. Parent responses were captured as open-ended questions that were coded to the categories reported during survey processing.

D3 This information was collected as an open-ended question. It appears that only those responses relating to availability and affordability were specifically identified in survey processing.

D4 Other response categories with smaller percentages were "unsuitable location for home" (2%), "transport problems" (< 1%), "child has disability or special needs" (2%), "does not suit culture or ethnic beliefs" (1%), "does not want cared by strangers" (< 1%).