The highest form of public inquiry into what is one of the highest priority investments in children’s futures – Early Childhood Education and Care.
In the context of this Royal Commission and the existing policy landscape for ECEC, this submission seeks to identify some of the key conditions to see the greatest benefit from investment in the early years in SA. These conditions can be built from the opportunities of access and universality, data and evaluation, a well provisioned, confident and valued workforce and an unwavering focus on quality in policy and program design and delivery. In building these foundations, the Front project makes seven recommendations:
Provide at least 15 hours per week of free, high-quality, universal preschool to all children in South Australia in each of the two years before starting school and make universal preschool available in public, community and Long Day Care (LDC) settings, with more support made available to children who need it.
Influence the Federal Government to expand funding in the Preschool Reform Agreement to include funding to support children in all states and territories to attend preschool in each of the two years before starting school.
Commit to an independent long-term evaluation of the implementation of preschool reform in South Australia (similar to the Education and Development Gains in Early Childhood (EDGE) study in Victoria).
Work with the Federal Government to fully fund and implement the National Workforce Strategy and investigate SA Government levers to address attraction, retention and growth in the ECEC workforce.
Improve the rating and assessment cycle and develop processes to ensure services are rated at least every three years to lift quality more rapidly, providing appropriate support for under-performing providers and assessing services that are rated as ‘working towards’ every 12 months.
Integrate ECEC with services such as health, school education and family services, including through exploring integrated community hubs.
Influence the Federal Government to adopt a systems stewardship framework of leadership in ECEC.