Preschool vow falls short: education union slams PM's pledge

A PROMISED 600 hours of preschool access a year fails to deliver education certainty for Australian families, an education expert says.

The Australian Education Union says Prime Minister Tony Abbott's $840 million pledge ensuring four-year-olds will get 15 hours of preschool a week in 2016 and 2017 is not strong enough.

Mr Abbott announced the extension of the National Partnership Agreement on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education funding on Sunday.

The agreement, between the Commonwealth, states and territories, ensures 15 hours of preschool will be available for the nation's four-year-olds.

State and territory leaders have been pushing for the agreement, which started under the federal Labor Government in 2009, to be continued.

Mr Abbott said the states and territories would get $415 million next year and $425 million in 2017 to ensure families have access to up to 600 hours of preschool education a year.

"It's very important that as many young Australians as possible that don't just go to childcare but they have preschool as well, and that's what this money is guaranteeing," Mr Abbott told reporters on Sunday.

AEU federal president Correna Haythorpe CORRECT blasted the length of the commitment.

Ms Haythorpe said parents and educators would have to fight for funding again in two years.

"This decision is a relief, but it does not deliver the long-term certainty that we need to establish high quality early childhood education for all four-year-olds," she said.

"The Abbott Government has finally listened and made preschool a priority - but it is disappointing that they have refused to guarantee funding beyond 2017.

"At least we are not repeating the farce of last year when parents and centres had to wait until September before learning they would get a one-year extension of funding."

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Mr Abbott took too long to make the commitment.

"A week before the budget, it would appear the best Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott can do is promise not to cut some of the good ideas for families," he told reporters.

Mr Abbott said the funding could only be extended for two years as preschool issues were being reviewed under the federation white paper reform process.