Weatherill calls on Commonwealth Government to lower preschool age

The region’s children could be appearing on pre-school doorsteps a year earlier if SA premier Jay Weatherill’s request to Commonwealth Government is listened to.

Dianne Halse is content to keep her one-year-old son Noah Ralston home until he turns four.

Dianne Halse is content to keep her one-year-old son Noah Ralston home until he turns four.

He calls on support from Council of Australian Governments to fund the drop in pre-school age of four-years to three-years.

The move is expected to “improve the educational outcomes and future career success of children across the state and nation”.

Mr Weatherill explained how the change also comes from states and territories which have commissioned an independent report into early childhood interventions – “expected to be released soon”.

Sandy Creek mother of one and 20-year director of Barossa Out of School Care Hours, Dianne Halse disagrees with the proposal, believing children would be too young. 

“They (children) are still learning and they don’t have the skills needed to enter pre-school that early,” she said. 

Skills and abilities which Mrs Halse said includes, social interaction and adult relationship experience.

Currently on maternity leave with her one-year-old son Noah, Mrs Halse shared how she will next year return to work part-time, but is keen to spend as much time with her son.

“I plan to take him to playgroup and swimming, and witness his milestones before he goes to kindy,” she said.

For father of two and Schubert MP Stephan Knoll, he’s unimpressed with the proposal.

“This is just a thought bubble from Labor, if they were serious about this idea then they would fund it and implement it,” he said.

“Currently, attendance for four-year-olds is only 60 per cent, so we need to increase the rates of four-year-olds attending preschool before we tackle three-year-olds,” Mr Knoll said.

Yet, Mr Weatherill says the extra year of early education is “known” to significantly enhance a child’s development and lifelong learning and health trajectory.

“Research unequivocally shows that those who fall short of key developmental milestones at five-years-old find these gaps very difficult to close.”

However, there was no actual facts shared to back up his claims.

“By starting preschool a year earlier, we can catch any problems earlier, greatly improving the likelihood of rectifying them,” Mr Weatherill said.

He explained how the former Adelaide Thinker in Residence, the late Dr Fraser Mustard, had shared that every dollar a government spends supporting the development of children saves between $4 and $8 in the longer term.

Education and child development minister Susan Close also sides with the premier. 

“Better investment in the early years would undoubtedly mean better outcomes for children – especially those with learning and other difficulties,” Ms Close explained.