How can government preschools and early childhood services support children's early learning?

We’re creating an Early Learning Strategy to support learning and development for children during the early years of life.

The strategy will help government preschools and early childhood services to support growth in learning for every child.

We want your views on what you believe are the key issues and opportunities in the following areas:

  • Preschool programs to support children’s learning and development before school.
  • Monitoring developmental milestones to ensure children are ‘on track’ as they start school.
  • Support for parents to help their child’s learning and development.

Give your feedback and help us develop an Early Learning Strategy by commenting below.

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Megan Hamper

21 Jan 2021

I work at a unique service as a remote preschool teacher (by air). In my role the children attend kindy sessions online, they also come into town periodically, and I visit the families. I think learning is most effective when the children have the chance to all come together into town for termly face-to-face kindy. Unfortunately it is not always easy for families to come into town as not only do they live far and wide but it is also expensive for families to pay for accommodation in town for 3-4 nights. I think it would be a bit more encouraging if there was funding allocated for family accommodation when they are down as well as for the cost of petrol to and from town.

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Kerry Jane

20 Jan 2021

I am fortunate to work with families of children 0-4 years in their own home, building trusting relationships is the key to then supporting the family to understand how children learn through play and their child's development. Naturally the next step for some of these families is then acting on identified developmental concerns that have been observed by themselves or in consultation with their Learning Together @ Home Fieldworker. Sometimes this does not come easy, but we support and guide families through this stage. Some professionals such as pediatricians, GP's and sometimes CAFHS really let families down in this area by not acknowledging parent concerns (these professionals are with the child 30mins and dismiss any developmental concerns!!) and a reluctance to refer children on for assessments. I feel a lot more training is required to identify developmental delay, to use age appropriate milestones in this field and to then support parents of these children. How can we expect parents to learn more about child development and milestones when some professionals fail to act on the early intervention that is critical for this age group. When children are faced with delays for referrals and assessments the entire early intervention required for the child is put back months if not years. When a family finally accesses Allied Health in most instances for their child and a NDIS application is made and finally approved the service IMMEDIATELY stops. This is a very flawed system because the child who has NDIS granted now then has to go on a 6 to 12 month waiting list for a provider such as speech therapy or occupational therapy and they are left with NO SERVICES/SUPPORT again!! The system fails the child again. This has happened to a number of children I have worked with. These months are so very critical for early intervention. Research has proven that acting on and supporting developmental delay before preschool is highly effective to lift the education outcomes and wellbeing of children and their parents. This is how so many children get to preschool having not had access to services and therapy and parents not having been educated more about their child's development. Learning Together @ Home and Learning Together playgroups are a brilliant example of how a program like this can provide opportunities for adults to build on strengths by playing together and learning together with their child in a supportive environment with professionals. Through these relationships there is support and education about child development and milestones for parents and support for learning through play for the children. This is an example of best practice for families and children in South Australia. We want to be world leaders for education in South Australia well it starts with children before and during the preschool years. I also think it should be visible to preschools on EYS if a child has had Learning Together @ Home so then if they want they can get the child's file from Records Management. The fieldworker could be contacted or at the very least the preschool has a good insight into the child's development and play and family experiences. I currently do email or phone preschools when a client is going to attend preschool (with the parents consent) and provide a summary of the child's development but it is also provided in the child's file. Wouldn't it be great if we all worked together towards children's education and development in the Education Department and government because a child starts learning from the day it is born. That is our core business isn't it!!

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B Schroeder

19 Jan 2021

The most important thing in the life and learning of young children is their family, their parents, their home. If we want to be effective we need to support families and children in families.
I know this goes completely against the agendas of recent decades, but anything else, no matter how well intentioned or how well structured, will be less than the best.

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Sue McKerracher

16 Dec 2020

On behalf of the Australian Library and Information Association and the Australian Public Library Alliance, we would like to draw the team’s attention to the role of public libraries in the early years. For example, across Australia, we hold more than 121,000 storytime and rhymetime sessions, attracting 3.1 million children, parents, grandparents and carers. These sessions are held in English and in languages most suited to the local community.

We know from the Australian Early Development Census (https://www.aedc.gov.au/resources/detail/2018-aedc-national-report) that approximately 15% of five-year-olds are vulnerable or at risk of not developing the language and cognitive skills they will need later in life. This has been a driving factor behind the Better Beginnings program at the State Library of WA (https://www.better-beginnings.com.au/) and the First 5 Forever state initiative (https://www.slq.qld.gov.au/first5forever) delivered by the State Library of Queensland. Both are state government funded programs, recognising the important role of public libraries in helping to improve family literacy.

Public Library Services, in the SA Department of the Premier and Cabinet, is already working with Raising Literacy Australia to develop a Reading and Literacy Framework, with the work of public libraries in the state being front and centre.

The best outcome from our perspective will be achieved by the Department of Education working closely with Public Library Services to ensure that the SA Reading and Literacy Framework and the SA Early Learning Strategy are developed in tandem and aligned for the greatest positive impact.

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Early learning team > Sue McKerracher

18 Dec 2020

Hi Sue,
Thank you for your contribution to this discussion on behalf of the Australian Library and Information Association and the Australian Public Library Alliance.
The ELS team understands and values the important role public libraries play in helping to improve early years and family literacy and we are looking closely at both the Western Australian and Queensland models. We are also engaging with Raising Literacy Australia and Public Library Services.
We also welcome your comments on the Australian Early Development Census, AEDC data forms a key component of the ELS with the aim of promoting wider us of this data within communities.
With thanks,
ELS Team

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Julie Richards

15 Dec 2020

There is a definite rise in the number of children reaching Preschool who have some sort of undiagnosed developmental delay. Once these children start preschool the educators have the often difficult job of broaching this with families, who are sometimes in denial or who have limited knowledge of childhood development. Building relationships and trust with families takes time. All the while the child is getting closer to starting school.
We need to find ways to identify these developmentally vulnerable children sooner and to engage, support and educate families about childhood development and where to access support when needed.
A more unified service between health and education from an early age would be helpful. More Cafhs presence in Childrens Centres would be conducive to this.
Educators, playgroup leaders, allied health and nurses could work together to identify and support children and their families from a younger age.
Unfortunately not all families access cafhs services for health checks, therefore they miss opportunities to have their childs development reviewed as they grow.
Also, unfortunately not all preschoolers can access a health check with cafhs at kindy due to current funding limitations.
Most children attend their local doctors from time to time and it's frustrating that often their GP will not identify any concerns about the childs development, despite there being obvious red flags at times.
So there's lots of gaps and missed opportunities between birth and school, so certainly some areas to be improved upon.

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Early learning team > Julie Richards

18 Dec 2020

Hi Julie,
Thank you for your comments.
We completely agree with the value of CaFHS checks and are working closely with CaFHS about how to get the most out of these existing critical universal services.
With thanks,
ELS Team

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Mike Steele

12 Dec 2020

I hope this is not a marketing exercise. Why a postcode is required information is interesting.
Great and varied comments from the respondents further below.
If the early childhood strategy is all about the large and corporate early childhood centers providing their own in-house staff training/qualifications, the government closing (or effectively defunding) their own other training facilities, and therefore community child care providers being forced to close (based on their lack of scale to provide training places or be registered training organizations) - this will be a tragedy.
Costs will increase in a non-competitive market and this is how lobbyists earn their keep!
Time will tell if its a government drive for user pays education/essential services or genuine engagement.

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Early learning team > Mike Steele

16 Dec 2020

Hi Mike,
Thank you for your comments and interest in the early learning strategy.
The ELS is about supporting every child's learning and development in their first 5 years of life, and is part of the department’s broader reform to achieve world-class learning and education in South Australia, and is also exploring professional development for educators.
With thanks,
ELS Team

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Lesley Nicol

06 Dec 2020

I feel that quality early childhood learning is crucial to a child’s development and well being for many reasons which have been well explained in the comments below. I also believe this should be completely free for all children regardless if parents are working or not as not every home environment is an ideal environment and we don’t want children starting school on the back foot. South Australia has an opportunity here to be leaders in children’s education which can only be a benefit to the state.

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Early learning team > Lesley Nicol

08 Dec 2020

Hi Lesley,
Thank you for your comments. We agree that quality early learning is crucial, and the strategy is exploring opportunities to overcome barriers for families accessing early childhood education and care. Child care fee assistance is out of the scope of this strategy, as it is a Federal Government responsibility.
With thanks,
ELS Team

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Karen Hack

04 Dec 2020

Please reconsider the privatisation of family day care. By decreasing the number of educators you are directly affecting the early education of our most vulnerable

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Early learning team > Karen Hack

07 Dec 2020

Dear Karen,
Thank you for your comment.
The Family Day Care Approach to Market isn’t being managed under the early learning strategy. More information is available here on that process and we have passed on your comment to the FDC team who can also be contacted directly via education.fdcATM@sa.gov.au
With thanks,
ELS Team

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Sarah Wormald

04 Dec 2020

Quality education starts with the Universities providing, current, evidence based curriculum and learning, best practice. It is sooo outdated, it certainly does not support the contextual learners of today certainly in content and the increasing spectrum of children's learning needs and disabilities. I have a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education.
We need health professionals in sites. More sites should be collocated with services such as CYH nurses, speech pathologist, OT. If not collocated, decd should be allocating these services more frequently to sites from term 1 of every preschool year. Along with the CYH check done upon entry to preschool or within first term so educators have an opportunity to contribute their observations of children to the nurse and family. Early identification and intervention is key yet decd continues to pull funding and services from our preschools. (let me tell you 15 mins a week with a child for speech and language support is not quality intervention) nor is the ongoing annual training and development for these support educators. It is terrible how little the department invest in professional development for educators, let alone even have available quality accessible training. So the little funding that is offered is often delivered by very uneducated and untrained educators. Yet these educators need specialised skill sets working with our vulnerable children.
It is also very clear that early years leadership is crowded. If you want to see improvements in quality teaching and learning and our leaders building the capacity and quality of practice of our teachers then, lesson their administrative duties, and face to face teaching, so they actually have the time to be a leader of pedagogy and practice, in a hands on approach with staff teams, because to get quality teaching takes time, alot of time mentoring and coaching. With our current workload that just does not happen.
This needs to be sent to every preschool director if you want a true representation because all we want is the best for our children, families and educators, yet the department don't seem to listen. It's all about saving money. I have been in early childhood for over 20 years as a Preschool Director for 18years and worked in all capacities of the industry. There is alot more to it than what I have provided and its an area I feel very passionate about advocating for, because we continue to feel so frustrated, undervalued and not heard all the while failing our little people. It's super sad.

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Early learning team > Sarah Wormald

16 Dec 2020

Hi Sarah,
Thank you for your comments and interest in the early learning strategy.
We too want the best for the children of South Australia. We believe this a great opportunity to hear from the educators and the wider community. The strategy will be a 10 year strategy that considers a number of the areas you have raised.
With thanks,
ELS Team

pamela jones > Sarah Wormald

19 Jan 2021

Endorse the comments re language development and valuing of the sector. O for the good old days of the Kindergarten Union with the Psychology Branch (in country SA) providing seamless support through the total age range.

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Louise Nicholson

03 Dec 2020

I am concerned about children who are impacted by the new No Jab No Play 2020 (NJNPlay) legislation in SA. Children who do not meet vaccination requirements are now banned from attending all early childhood education services (child care, family day care, kindergarten, early learning etc.).
Children have no say in their vaccination status.

A rough estimate would be that 5% of children in SA, right now, are being denied access to early childhood education through the NJNPlay legislation. That is 1/20 children.

I am disappointed to see that this major barrier to accessing early childhood education (created and enforced by the SA Government) has not been acknowledged in this survey, particularly at Question 5 (If your child won't access a Department for Education Preschool, are there any reasons for this?).

It is important to understand that the NJNPlay legislation does not have the intention (or design) to reduce the incidence of vaccine preventable disease (VPD) within early childhood education settings (i.e. to make these settings "safer"). It is designed purely to create an "incentive" for parents/carers to ensure children's vaccination records are up to date (or a 'punishment' for records not being up to date, depending on which way you look at it). This is clearly acknowledged by the Minister for Health and Well-being and stated in the Discussion Paper connected to the legislation. I am sure that the ELS Team would understand this however I am reiterating for those who may not be familiar with the legislation.

Putting the difficult issue of vaccination choice aside and reasons why children are not fully up to date with their vaccinations, every child matters. Early childhood education is important for ALL children.

With respect, can the ELS Team confirm that they:
Are aware of the NJNPlay legislation and impacts??
Will consider in the new strategy children who are denied access to early childhood education through the NJNPlay legislation?
Recognise that these children form a group that requires special consideration in regards to learning and development before school?

I will be submitting a formal response via the survey and a more detailed letter to the Department for Education. I wanted to leave a comment here however to raise the issue as there may be other people wondering about the same issue.
Many thanks,
Louise Nicholson.

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Early learning team > Louise Nicholson

07 Dec 2020

Hi Louise,
Thank you for your comments.
The ELS team is aware of the legislation and that Departmental staff and local preschool leaders continue to work closely with families to assist them in overcoming barriers in accessing their child’s immunisation record, and supporting those families who wish to immunise their child.
For further information please contact the Preschool Policy and Programs team at education.ecsupport@sa.gov.au
With thanks,
ELS Team

Jessica Karpenko > Louise Nicholson

22 Dec 2020

ELS Team,
From your response it is clear that ELS have left families of children who have not and will not receive all requisite vaccinations high and dry, and it seems they will continue to do so.
It is appalling that no one is willing to advocate for these children, who clearly do not matter enough for anyone to go out on a limb.
As a public school educator, I am ashamed that the principle of "every child has a right to education" no longer applies to all institutions.
Sincerely,
Jessica Karpenko

Government Agency

Early learning team > Louise Nicholson

05 Jan 2021

Hi Jessica,
Thank you for your comments,
With thanks,
ELS Team

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Early learning team

03 Dec 2020

Hi Neelesh,
Thank you for your comments. We are agree that families are children's first teachers. We look forward to exploring other areas of interest for you including the value of play based environments in the strategy.
With thanks, ELS team

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Neelesh Neelesh

30 Nov 2020

बच्चों को शुरूआती शिक्षा परिवार से मिलती है उसमें भी पहला स्थान माँ का होता है बच्चों के व्यक्तित्व को नि खाने के लिए उन्हें महापुरुषों, विद्वानों, वैज्ञानिकों के बारे में बताना चाहिए उनके कार्यो के बारे में बताना चाहिए साथ ही साथ बच्चों के सर्वांगीण विकास के लिए उनकी गतिविधियों पर उनको बिना पता लगे नजर रखनी चाहिए उनको केवल अध्ययन पर ही नहीं शारीरिक गतिविधियों पर भी
ध्यान देना चाहिए उनकी कोई शंका हो तो उसे भी दूर करना चाहिए उनकी गतिविधियों के बारे में शिक्षकों से भी चर्चा करनी चाहिए उनको खेल खेल में सिखाना चाहिए

Lesley Nicol > Neelesh Neelesh

06 Dec 2020

Can we please have translation of this comment

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Early learning team > Neelesh Neelesh

08 Dec 2020

Hi Lesley,
Translation of the above comment;

"The children get their initial education from the family, the mother also has the first place to shape the personality of the children, the mother should tell the children about the great men, scholars, scientists as a role model to support children's development. They should monitor their activities without knowing them, they should not only concentrate on study but also on physical activities. Attention should be given to them if they have any doubt, they should also discuss their activities with teachers. They should be taught through play-based environment."

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Lorraine Perotti

26 Nov 2020

I believe that preschool programs should not only provide and encourage a safe, fun and happy environment but also provide a place to learn through play. The preschool recognizes developmental areas of a child that do require assistance and support and so build on those areas in preparation for school. In some cases some children have been fortunate to have programs like Learning Together @ Home visiting the family in the earlier years (birth to 4 years) helping the child and the family to build and establish relationships within the family and to support parents to understand the needs of the child. I feel the preschool could benefit from information from the person working with that family to better understand the needs of the family and how it affects that child. This would give the preschool a head start in the planning and putting in support especially if other services are already working with the family.
I have worked in preschools as a support worker for many years prior to Learning Together @ Home and know that quite some time can pass before the needs of the child and support is established. Having all this information prior to preschool starts the support as quick as possible.
The Learning Together @ Home also supports our families to attend Learning Together playgroups which is very valuable because then we all work together to help the family. As the fieldworkers build relationships with the parent and child at home they can then support the families learning and understanding in other environments like the playgroup.
A lot of our families may not speak English or there are sensitive issues like Autism. I have seen families who have little or no confidence with even understanding a child with Autism let alone not being able to speak the language. By supporting them at home and building those relationships and being able to transition the family into our playgroups at a gentler understanding pace has been very successful. Some of our play groups are in a setting where there is a preschool so the child or children can transition into that environment again with a lot of support and understanding of that child and the family needs. It is important to realise that a lot of these parents have their own issues with health and mental health. By building those relationships we are supporting the parents as best we can to move them on into preschool, therefore the playgroups and preschools can benefit from 1) knowing there is a concern with the parent 2) passing on information that can continue helping those parents with their own issues.
From the very young age (birth to 4 years) it is important to know where the child’s development is and to monitor this. From our first visit with the family we talk about the child and listen to the parent for any concerns they may have and work out a plan together with the parent. This encourages the parent to become involved with the child and we can support that learning for the parent. In our work we model the play and promote language development and different ways of communicating to the children. Eg. Sign language / visuals etc. Our program focuses on the everyday learning and learning through play that is vital for their overall development and well-being.
As you see my focus is the early years before preschool. This is where the families and children can strive to build their relationships within their families and therefore encouraging the children to further grow and develop while on a learning path as they enter preschool.

Kerri Anne > Lorraine Perotti

26 Nov 2020

well done Lorraine you have said it all here!! the focus for early intervention needs to be from the home and working with families. Also agree that childcare & preschool need to liaise with those doing this early intervention work much more closely to have a holistic approach to child and families and their learning. Only thing i would add is the concern that i have seen a rise in families being turned away from preschool and discouraged!!

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Early learning team > Lorraine Perotti

27 Nov 2020

Hi Lorraine and Kerri Anne,
Thank you for your comments. As mentioned earlier, we certainly value playgroups and are also exploring ways to share information between services to support transitions into and out of preschool
With thanks,
ELS Team

pamela jones > Lorraine Perotti

19 Jan 2021

Heartily endorse

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Jasmyn Nicholls

25 Nov 2020

2 things that could help children , particularly considering a quarter are vulnerable in one area would be to have every child have their 4 year old health check by the Cafhs nurses done in their first 6 months of preschool. Also the funding model that gives support to Affiliate preschools currently is outdated. Currently there is a cap on funding no matter how many children in the centre need support, so the children who have less need miss out due to the higher needs children needing more intensive support. Children should be supported individually based on their needs, not miss out because there are more with higher needs, they can't help that. We don't want to say to parents, that their child can't come because we don't have the ability to meet their needs.

Nick Dawson > Jasmyn Nicholls

27 Nov 2020

Hi Jasmyn, I 100% agree with this "Children should be supported individually based on their needs, not miss out because there are more with higher needs, they can't help that. We don't want to say to parents, that their child can't come because we don't have the ability to meet their needs." When I used to work as a junior primary teacher, this frustrated me greatly. As a parent now, I can empathise with other parents whose children need more support and who miss out for the reason you mentioned.

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Early learning team > Jasmyn Nicholls

27 Nov 2020

Hi Jasmyn & Nick,
Thank you for your comments. We completely agree with the value of CaFHS checks and are working closely with CaFHS about how to get the most out of these existing critical universal services.
We appreciate your comments however non government preschool funding is out of scope for the Early Learning Strategy.

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Early learning team > Jasmyn Nicholls

27 Nov 2020

With thank,
ELS Team

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Julie Bolland

24 Nov 2020

As an early childhood educator I see gaps in our support system for families. Many parents could access playgroups which give a helping hand to those parents who need support but many don't realise this. Learning Together playgroups help parents who are struggling with any children's issues, have a lot of information to share, and can help a parent to access other help if deemed appropriate. Linking programs to preschools is helpful to parents and to the preschool as the children learn and the interaction between the two programs is helpful for when a child starts preschool. Early intervention can make an enormous amount of difference to a child at this age. We (our team) have watched children who barely speak, are shy, afraid, aggressive and un-cooperative change completely before they reach preschool age. We see parents come in full of anxiety, worried they are doing something wrong, having social or general anxiety and the experience helps them with their fears and supports them and their children to work through any issues they have. This makes the transition to preschool and school a much easier process. More support like this could help make an enormous difference for so many more families if there was more funding.

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Early learning team > Julie Bolland

25 Nov 2020

Hi Julie
Thanks very much for taking the time to leave a comment. We certainly agree about the value of playgroups and through the strategy development phase we are exploring a number of options in regards to support for families.
With thanks,
ELS Team

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