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SA Treasurer Stephen Mulligan handed down the state budget last Thursday afternoon. Picture: NCA Newswire/Mark Brake

What’s in the SA budget for education?

A total of $256.3m will has been allocated to education by the South Australian state government in the 2024-25 budget, along with a new 20-year framework that will change how schools receive infrastructure spending.

The plan will make significant changes to how work is prioritised on about 5700 buildings across 900 public schools, preschools and children’s centres run by the SA Department of Education.

It will provide fit-for-purpose infrastructure and targeted school improvement to uplift schools across the state.

The plan will focus on key indicators when assessing infrastructure work including enrolment trends and capacity, socio-economic disadvantage, asset condition, school culture and local community opportunities.

Education Minister Blair Boyer said the new approach moves from “a traditional reactive approach to an evidence-based prioritisation model”.

“In developing this plan, we spoke to parent focus groups who told us about the things they care most about when selecting a school for their child,” Mr Boyer said.

The responses included considerations such as “facilities, the location, the responsiveness of the school to their needs and the overall community confidence in a site,” he said.

“My ambition is for all South Australians to have confidence that their local public school or preschool is great, regardless of where they live.”

An investment of will also be made to build a new preschool and primary school in Mount Barker, and a new 1200 strong high school in the northern suburbs of Adelaide to meet enrolment demand.

A further $38.1m will be invested into urgent upgrades for Surrey Downs Primary School, Bellevue Heights Primary School, Mount Gambier High School, Le Fevre High School and Mount Barker High School.

Investment into early childhood education and cost-of-living relief for families were also central to the budget.

Cost-of-living relief

Families of about 120,000 children who attend public schools will save $200 per student on school fees next year in a doubling of the materials and services subsidy from 2024.

More than 100,000 children will also be eligible for two $100 vouchers towards sporting activities and, for the first time, music lessons. That is up from one $100 voucher in previous years.

A total of $212,000 will also be spent in 2024-25 to support the second year of a research project aimed at assessing how to boost autism support and other disability and inclusion studies in SA teaching degrees.

Early childhood

A major focus of this budget was investment into early childhood education, setting aside a total of $715m over five years to implement the recommendations of the recently finalised Royal Commission into Early Childhood Education and Care chaired by former prime minister Julia Gillard.

It delivers on Labor's election promise to implement universal three-year-old preschool by 2032, a spend of $339.7m from the larger $715m.

The change comes after the early learning review found almost a quarter of SA children starting school have developmental delays.

Premier Peter Malinauskas said the change will take about 20 years to implement, but it will be worth it in the long run.

"We're effectively adding a whole new year of public education that will benefit young people and their parents forever more," he said.

"Over 23 per cent of young South Australians start reception with at least one form of developmental delay.

"If we can reduce that number from 23 to 15 per cent, that literally changes the lives of thousands of young South Australians."

Two pilot sites, one in Port Pirie and another in the northern suburbs of Adelaide, will open from next year to kickstart the initiative, to be followed by up to 18 more proposed sites.

Government will also partner with existing long daycare centres to phase all three-year-olds into pre-school over six years to 2032.

The government said even from a young age, the extra education will prepare a workforce of the future that would be able to better serve national projects such as AUKUS.

"We will be getting thousands of children into education earlier, into play-based learning, to set themselves up," Treasurer Stephen Mullighan said.

"This will be transformational for the state's future, including our economic opportunities – making sure that more younger South Australians are better equipped to take on the jobs of the future."

Another part of the larger $715m spend is $127.3m over four years to increase the minimum 15 hours of preschool to 30 hours for 2,000 children.

A $96.6m investment will be made to grow early childhood workforce to serve the new initiatives, and $14m will be spent to make sure Indigenous children can access those services.

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