Evidence for Learning: Extra hours

Extra hours

The summary below presents the research evidence on extra hours in the Australasian context.

The Early Childhood Education Toolkit focuses on impact; it presents an estimate of the average impact of communication and language approaches on learning progress, based on the synthesis of a large number of quantitative studies from around the world.

This page offers a summary and analysis of individual Australasian studies on communication and language approaches. In contrast to the Early Childhood Education Toolkit it includes studies which do not estimate impact, but instead investigate the implementation of interventions and how they are perceived by early learning professionals and young learners. This information is valuable for early learning centres interested in finding out more about particular examples of communication and language approaches that have been delivered in Australia and New Zealand.

Fraser Mustard Centre generated this evidence summary on behalf of CoLab (a partnership between Telethon Kids Institute and the Minderoo Foundation) in July 2019.

Extra hours, or intensity, refers to increasing the number of hours children spend in early childhood education (ECE) at a given time. In the Australasian context, this typically means providing children with more hours in preschool or centre-based care settings per week.

Based on strong evidence to support the benefits of ECE for children’s later outcomes, Australasian governments have made considerable investments to increase participation in early learning programs. In Australia, there is a universal entitlement of 15 hours of preschool per week in the year before children start school (i.e. at 4 years of age) (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2015). A similar entitlement is implemented in New Zealand, with up to 20 hours of preschool subsidised for children aged 3 and 4 years old per week (OECD, 2016). Recent data indicate children in Australia attend preschool for an average of almost 15 hours per week, compared to 23 hours in New Zealand (Pascoe & Brennan, 2017).

Research exploring the impact of increased hours spent in preschool on children’s outcomes in the Australasian context, however, remains limited. Harrison and colleagues (2009) utilised data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) to explore the relationship between intensity of early education and care attendance and developmental outcomes amongst children aged 4 and 5 years. They found children who had attended between 9 – 30 hours of early education and care per week (including centre-based child care, preschool, and preparatory programs in the year before the first grade of school) had significantly better literacy and numeracy outcomes compared to those who attended between 1 – 8 hours per week. The same study, however, indicated that too many hours in early education and care seems to have some disadvantages, with children attending more than 30 hours found to have poorer receptive vocabulary skills, relative to those who attended for fewer hours.

Also using LSAC data, Gialamas and colleagues (2014) examined the effects of time spent in centre-based child care on children’s development upon school entry. Results suggest children who spend a greater number of hours in centre-based child care between the ages of 0 and 3 years have higher levels of problematic externalising behaviours and lower levels of internalising behaviours at ages 4 to 5, with no evidence to support impacts on children’s receptive vocabulary. Similarly, Coley and colleagues (2015) utilised LSAC data and found while greater hours spent in centre-based child care had small positive effects on children’s fluid intelligence, these effects did not extend to children’s vocabulary or academic abilities at age 7. Further, more hours spent in centre-based care was found to have negative impacts on children’s behavioural functioning at age 7.

Although limited, these findings reflect international evidence. Research exploring the impacts of increased preschool intensity in the US have demonstrated both positive and null effects on children’s long term cognitive abilities (Bassok, Gibbs, & Latham, 2018). There is, however, more consistent evidence to suggest children experience poorer behavioural outcomes as preschool intensity increases (Bassok et al., 2018; Loeb, Bridges, Bassok, Fuller, & Rumberger, 2007). Future Australasian research should explore optimal ECE intensity for both children’s behavioural and cognitive outcomes, and how this might differ for children from different backgrounds.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2015). Literature review of the impact of early childhood education and care on learning and development: working paper. Cat. no: CWS 53. Canberra: AIHW.

Bassok, D., Gibbs, C. R., & Latham, S. (2018). Preschool and Children’s Outcomes in Elementary School: Have Patterns Changed Nationwide Between 1998 and 2010? Child Development, Available online 17 April 2018. doi:10.1111/cdev.13067

Coley, R. L., McPherron Lombardi, C., & Sims, J. (2015). Long-Term Implications of Early Education and Care Programs for Australian Children. Journal of Educational Psychology, 107(1), 284 – 299. doi:10.1037/a0037456

Gialamas, A., Sawyer, A. C., Mittinty, M. N., Zubrick, S. R., Sawyer, M. G., & Lynch, J. (2014). Quality of childcare influences children’s attentiveness and emotional regulation at school entry. J Pediatr, 165(4), 813 – 819 e813. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2014.06.011

Harrison, L. J., Ungerer, J. A., Smith, G. J., Zubrick, S. R., & Wise, S. (2009). Child care and early education in Australia. The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. Social Policy Research Paper No. 40. Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Canberra.

Loeb, S., Bridges, M., Bassok, D., Fuller, B., & Rumberger, R. W. (2007). How much is too much? The influence of preschool centers on children’s social and cognitive development. Economics of Education Review, 26(1), 52 – 66. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.econ…

OECD. (2016). Starting Strong IV: Early Education and Care, Data Country Note, New Zealand Starting Strong, Paris. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/education/school/ECECDCN-NewZealand.pdf

Pascoe, S., & Brennan, D. (2017). Lifting our game: report of the review to achieve educational excellence in Australian schools through early childhood interventions. Victorian Government.

  • Google Scholar
  • ERIC
  • ERC
  • A+ Education
  • Web of Science

Preschool; kindergarten; pre-primary; early learning centre; early childhood education; ECE/ECEC; dose; 600 hours; 15 hours; intensity; extra hours.