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Labor looks to longer preschool hours

Preschoolers might find themselves spending longer at school under a federal Labor government.

The party has pledged to improve the universal access guarantee by considering options, including increasing hours, to make sure all children get the opportunity to attend preschool. But the party’s national conference has watered down a motion from New South Wales’ Rose Jackson, who wanted access to preschool doubled from 15 hours a week to 30.

Under the existing guarantee, the federal government gives money to the states in exchange for them increasing the amount of preschool places to make sure all 4-year-olds get a spot for at least 15 hours a week.

Jackson said the commitment to look at extending hours was a good start but Labor could do more.

“We should be looking at ways to fund an increase to 30 hours,” she told the conference in Melbourne on Saturday. “I would like to see a future in society where early childhood education is considered in the same way as public primary education, delivered by the state to everyone for 3- and 4-year-olds.”

She acknowledged that would be expensive.

Jackson also took aim at the deal to change her amendment, saying the conference should be an opportunity to be visionary and reach higher, “not just be about the things that we already agree on”.

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