An ambitious overhaul to South Australia’s early childhood education and care sectors has been launched following the sweeping recommendations from the state’s royal commission.
Commissioner Julia Gillard handed down her 43 recommendations to overhaul the current system on Sunday but the state government has so far accepted just 13, including the rollout of universal three-year-old pre-school.
The final report recommended a universal entitlement to 15 hours per week of preschool for three-year-olds, for 40 weeks per year, and up to 30 hours for children in need of additional assistance.
A major expansion of out-of-school hours care as well as an additional year of preschool for three and four-year-olds in long daycare and government preschools were also recommended.
Ms Gillard said bringing more children up to or beyond developmental benchmarks would require a “universal but not uniform” approach.
“For the first 1000 days of life, we are recommending more comprehensive child development checks so children can be connected early to any additional supports that they may need,” she said.
“We are recommending better support for parents … and we are recommending improved access to childcare with the state government playing a role in addressing areas where there currently are no childcare facilities or only very limited access.”
The “major expansion” of out-of-school hours care would be offered to all school-aged children, while a trial of the program has been recommended for preschool children, including three-year-olds.
“We want more services available and these approaches are a pathway towards that,” Ms Gillard said.
“There are special constraints at the moment for families with a child with a disability, and the report recommends how to address those constraints.”
The former prime minister said the royal commission had found more than 60 per cent of three-year-olds were enrolled in childcare, in long day care centres.
“A quick and efficient start to rolling out the new three-year-old preschool year relies on maximising the availability of preschool programs in those long day care centres where children already are, as well as government preschools,” she said.
South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas said the government had been “desperately looking forward to” the findings.
“This report, I firmly believe, has the power to change the lives of many young South Australians for many decades to come,” he said.
“This royal xommission has at heart the objective to get things right … at the beginning of this significant public policy development, but, most importantly, at the beginning of a young person’s life.”
The report investigated the quality of support provided by the state’s long day care (or child care) program, family day care, early learning centres, children’s centres and preschools (or kindergartens).