The Early Childhood National Reform Symposium was held in Adelaide, on 27 November 2015, to seek contributions to the proposed national early childhood reforms. The symposium was hosted by South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill.

The symposium was attended by almost 100 representatives from early childhood service providers, education sectors, parent groups, universities and welfare agencies. Participants outlined an aspirational vision for young children and the need for a high-quality early education service system to support them.

They envisaged a service system that supports all children. They wanted to ensure that, our most disadvantaged can access the education and care they need to fulfil their potential to develop, learn and grow. They wanted to foster a community that recognises children’s rights and values their contributions – both now and into the future.

To support the symposium, over a two-week period, 90 parents and carers took the time to consider the reform proposals on the South Australian Government’s YourSAy online consultation platform.

They were overwhelmingly supportive of the proposals to provide high-quality early childhood education and care in flexible ways that support their children’s learning and development, and help them to balance their work and family responsibilities. They also said, however, that services needed to better support their work and family responsibilities.

The purpose of the symposium was to have an open discussion about how the Federation can support the following three early childhood reform proposals:

  • Durable, consistent preschool funding for all children regardless of what kind of preschool they attend
  • Removing any barriers preventing preschools from being able to offer outside of preschool hours care in order to facilitate choice and assist working families
  • New ways for states and territories to support and develop disadvantaged and vulnerable children.

The keynote speaker, Professor Edward (Ted) Melhuish, Professor of Human Development at the University of Oxford, outlined a progressive and evidence-based argument for investing in the early years.

Premier Jay Weatherill described his passion for a more efficient and effective preschool system in Australia and announced his national reform proposal to be presented at the December 2015 Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting.

Participants asked questions of a panel that included Premier Jay Weatherill, Education and Child Development Minister Susan Close, Professor Ted Melhuish, Dr Sara Glover, Director of the Mitchell Institute and Samantha Page, Chief Executive Officer of Early Childhood Australia.

A facilitated consultation workshop by Jenny Philip-Harbutt provided a wealth of information about the detail of the proposed reforms that will be used to inform the South Australian Premier’s discussion at COAG.

The symposium was moderated by Channel 7 senior news reporter Jayne Stinson.

Read the full report, including the data collected in the discussions on YourSAy, here (PDF, 872KB).