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Education is essential for good outcomes later in life for children and young people. Most if not all children and young people have had their education disrupted by COVID-19. This disruption, now combined with the economic recession, will potentially impact children and young people’s educational results and employment.

Before the pandemic more than one in six children in NSW were in households living below the poverty line. The ongoing and future impact of missed learning opportunities is likely to be greatest for these children and young people.

What's in the 2021-22 Budget

  • $150 million to extend the current COVID-19 Free Preschool Funding program for the 2022 school year. This will provide at least 600 hours of free preschool per year (15 hours or 2 days per week) to all eligible preschool children.
  • $8 million to provide free books to 15,000 pre-school age children in vulnerable communities.
  • $24.6 million in 2021-22, including $13.2 million capital expenditure, to support implementation of recommendations in the Gonski Shergold Review of the NSW VET sector. This will include expanding access to VET student loans and improving vocational education available in high schools.
  • $5.2 million in 2021-22 to continue the Education Pathways Pilot Program (EPPP) to enhance uptake of vocational career options and improve job-readiness of secondary school students.
  • $19 million funding boost to information and communication technology capabilities at TAFE campuses to improve digital learning for students.
  • $318.6 million over 2 years to continue investment in the Skilling for Recovery program to help job seekers retrain or upskill, and support school leavers to enter the workforce.

What does it mean for those doing it tough?

Extending funding for free preschool places will provide vital early years learning and support parents and carers to access and maintain employment.

Students and young people will be able to access more support to enter vocational education and the workforce, as well as opportunities for virtual learning through TAFE. This will be particularly beneficial for young people in regional, rural and remote areas who cannot easily access a TAFE campus.

What is needed?

This investment will help to mitigate the long-term impacts of COVID-19 and the economic recession on educational outcomes for children and young people.

However, future budgets will need to do more to mitigate the risk of poor educational attainment for vulnerable children and young people in NSW including through more investment in alternative education pathways and tailored support for disengaged students. This budget also appears to be a missed opportunity for committing funding towards implementing the recently released NSW Student Behaviour Strategy.

Further information

Sector priorities:



Housing and homelessness

Domestic violence

Child protection

Mental health

Cost of living