More than 30 per cent of preschool education centres are not meeting minimum national standards, while 26 per cent have still not been assessed, a new report warns.
Australian preschools and kindergartens are suffering from low quality teaching and poor child attendance, research by Victoria University's Mitchell Institute says.
Every year, about 60,000 children were found to start school developmentally behind, with 10 per cent of those students remaining behind throughout their schooling.
The report says kindergarten should be compulsory for four-year-olds, in line with the UK, New Zealand and several European countries.
"Early learning is as important as the learning a child will do at school. It's not babysitting," said Mitchell Institute's director, Dr Sara Glover.
Yet preschool education was being wrongly perceived as a way to "help parents get back to paid work", she said.
As a result, just one in three students in Australia attends preschool for the minimum number of hours of 15 hours a week.
Private school shenahagins
A Melbourne Girls Grammar student has been expelled and two others suspended from the exclusive school after they were caught with drugs, reportedly including ecstasy, at a year 12 formal.
The trio was kicked out of the event at Albert Park on Friday night after venue security found students with "illicit substances" and notified school staff, the school's principal Catherine Mission said.
It has been reported one girl was found with ecstasy, marijuana and alcohol and another was caught with a "significant" number of pills, but the school has not confirmed what drugs were uncovered.
Melbourne Girls Grammar, in South Yarra, is one of Melbourne's most expensive schools, with fees of $32,736 a year for grade 11 and 12 students.
The school formal was held at The Park, a function venue located on the banks of Albert Park Lake.
Ms Mission confirmed one student had been expelled and two others suspended, after the school investigated the incident.
The two suspended students will be subjected to special conditions upon returning to school.
"The school will be actively supporting these girls once they are back at school," Ms Mission said in a statement.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said Melbourne Girls Grammar had not notified police about the incident and local officers would "be in touch" with the school.
"We've encouraged the school to come have a chat to us," Mr Ashton told radio ABC 774 on Wednesday morning, adding that it was not mandatory for schools to contact police when drugs were found. I wonder if they considered expulsion especially as any attempt to hush it up has failed?
The right wingers flex their muscles and kids lose out
The closure of Australia's only youth-led sex education service is ideologically driven and will deepen a national crisis in sexual health among young people, experts have claimed.
The Turnbull government will pull all funding from YEAH – a program using youth educators to deliver sex education in schools and universities – after June 30, replacing it with an online resource.
Critics say it makes no sense to shut the $450,000 a year program, which has just four paid staff and provided face-to-face sexual health information to 10,000 young people in 2015, at a time when sexually transmitted infections are rising and condom use is on the decline.
They claim YEAH (Youth Empowerment Against HIV/AIDS) is the latest victim of an ideological agenda pushed by conservatives who believe teaching students about sex and sexuality from an early age is dangerous.
"There's a lot of kowtowing to right-wing activists at the moment and you'd have to say that defunding of YEAH is part of that agenda too," Anne Mitchell, emeritus professor at La Trobe University and one of Australia's leading authorities on sexual health and education, said.
"This is an organisation that over a long period of time has worked with young people in sexual health, particularly in HIV prevention, and has been effective. The fact that it's been defunded so suddenly suggests there must be some political pressure coming from somewhere."
Professor Mitchell is on the steering committee of the Safe Schools Coalition – a national program designed to make schools safer for LGBTI students. It was gutted in March, against the recommendations of an independent review, following a push from the Australian Christian Lobby and the Liberal party's right-wing, who claimed it was sexualising children and promoting the "homosexual agenda".
Adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg also believes the demise of YEAH after 11 years is linked to the "hysteria" around Safe Schools. He said axing the program, which also reached 900,000 young people through its online program in 2015, was illogical.
"There is a clear view that if you teach kids about sex they'll have more of it and that is just not backed up by science," Dr Carr-Gregg said. "The reporting rates of chlamydia alone – which causes infertility – tells us as a society that we need to do more because if we don't in a few decades' time we'll have one of the most infertile generations in Australia."
Seventy per cent of sexually transmitted infections occur in people aged 15 to 29, with chlamydia the most commonly reported. While rates have stabilised, in 2013 there were 82,000 new diagnoses. Gonorrhoea diagnoses continue to soar, with rates increasing by 80 per cent over the past five years.
The latest National Survey of Australian Secondary Students and Sexual Health in 2014, found that almost half of year 10 to 12 students said sex education in schools was irrelevant to their lives and used "scare tactics", focusing too much on biology instead of issues such as the emotional challenges of relationships, sexual pleasure and consent.
The conservative push against sex education in schools was misguided, she said.
"If parents don't want their child to end up having lots of risky scenarios and ending up with all sorts of sexual and physical health problems then the best thing you can do to help your young person avoid that is to make sure that they have access to information."
Amazingly this government can still find well over $200 million a year for their chaplaincy program!
@theage on Twitter | theageAustralia on Facebook