Big changes are on the way for SA kids’ early education, including the rollout of universal three-year-old preschool. We break down what it all means for South Australian parents now and in the future.
The South Australian Government launched a Royal Commission into Early Childhood Education and Care in October last year, led by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard. After hearing from researchers, experts, providers and families, the Commission’s final report made 43 recommendations designed to deliver high-quality early childhood education and care – you can read the final report here.
“Often Royal Commissions are created to look back at what’s gone wrong. In contrast, this Royal Commission has given us all an opportunity to look forward at how we can provide the best start for every South Australian child.”
– The Hon Julia Gillard
Work will immediately begin on expanding preschool and Out of School Hours Care (OSHC) in SA. The State Government has immediately accepted 13 recommendations in the report, including:
- Commencing the rollout of universal three-year-old preschool in 2026, to be completed by 2032;
- Prioritising the 1,000 most vulnerable children in the state;
- Becoming the first Australian state to provide up to 30 hours of preschool per week for the most vulnerable three- and four-year olds;
- Starting a trial of out-of-hours care in some government-run preschools in 2024;
- Centralising management of OSHC in government schools under the Department for Education, improving quality and access, and modernising OSHC qualification requirements;
- Expanding child development checks to achieve maximum possible participation;
- Establishing an Early Childhood Workforce Fund;
- Legislating a new Office for Early Childhood Development as a steward for the early childhood development system and to coordinate the implementation of the Royal Commission’s recommendations, reporting directly to the education minister.
The State Government will make an initial commitment of $50 million towards the first tranche of required infrastructure works and $20 million towards starting to implement the recommendations, including:
- $7 million for the Education Standards Board so that every childhood education and care provider is assessed and rated at least every three years;
- $2.4 million towards the establishment of the new Office for Early Childhood Development;
- $1.7 million for the out of hours care trial at preschools in 2024.
Why are these changes necessary?
“To build a great future for our State, we must invest in our children.”
– The Hon Julia Gillard
The decisions parents make in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life help set the course for the rest of their life.
The aim of this report is to ensure fewer children are developmentally vulnerable when they start school. The benefits are widespread, including better outcomes at school, stronger career prospects after school, and improved wellbeing overall – which has broader benefits for our society and our economy.
Better yet, a modern out of school hours care system that’s high quality and accessible to all providers greater flexibility for working families.
What does this mean for parents?
SA will become the first state or territory to offer universal three-year-old preschool when it is rolled out from 2026. This will give all families access to two years of preschool before school when the rollout is complete in 2032. The children will be able to attend preschool for 15 hours a week, or up to 30 hours a week for three and four-year-olds who need more support.
For many working families, the 9am to 3pm preschool timetable isn’t manageable, and prohibits families – namely women – from workforce participation.
Government preschools are run using a sessional model, usually offering preschool from around 9am-3pm. Most non-government preschools, on the other hand, offer long day care from around 7am-6pm. This makes decisions for working families more difficult due to accessibility.
Many families often need care for their children outside of regular preschool operating hours, but often OSHC services are not set up for preschool-aged children.
Trials at 20 preschool sites in 2024 will test how different models of a preschool OSHC could work in both school-based and standalone preschool settings and will include metropolitan and regional locations and different levels of developmental need. An expression of interest will be released soon for preschools to participate in the trial.