socioeconomic status, long-term unemployment of parents, and social isolation may have lasting impacts
on a child's chance of reaching their full potential. Whilst not eliminating disadvantage, preschool
education can help to lessen the effects of these risk factors and can provide children with a better start
to school. However, some of these factors may also be barriers to preschool attendance for groups that
would benefit most from preschool education.
In Australia, the early years of children's education is the responsibility of many government and non
government agencies and it occurs in a range of settings. Preschool is aimed at children around four years
of age to prepare them for compulsory schooling from the age of six years. In most states and territories,
children can start full-time schooling at five years of age, when they enrol in a kindergarten or
preparatory year. In 2001, just over half of five year olds (57%) were at school with about a third (34%)
attending preschool. While in some states and territories children can commence preschool before they
turn four, participation rates for three year olds are much lower than four year olds (24% compared with
56% for four year olds in 2001). The preschool participation rate of four year olds in 2001 (56%) was
similar to the rate in 1991 (58%).