Peak bodies welcome extension of fee relief for NSW community preschools
A number of peak bodies in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector have welcomed the recent announcement by the New South Wales Government, which has seen an extension of fee relief for approximately 700 community and 38 mobile preschools across the state until the end of 2021.
The additional funding will provide up to 15 hours of free early learning per child each week, which NSW Government modelling indicates could save families more than $2,000 per child for the year.
“COVID-19 has caused financial strain for many families and disrupted life for many young children. We applaud this decision from Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning Sarah Mitchell, which will ensure young children in NSW can access high-quality early education in the critical years before school regardless of their parents capacity to pay,” Early Childhood Australia (ECA) CEO Sam Page said.
The measure was also welcomed by Thrive by Five CEO Jay Weatherill, who said affordability of early learning has become “the biggest issue impacting cost of living for Australian families”, with costs being some of the highest in the OECD at 27 per cent of household income.
“This new investment in early learning announced by the Berejiklian Government is the smart way of kickstarting NSW’s economy, increasing options for working families and women’s workforce participation and giving children the best possible start to life,” Mr Weatherill said.
The respondents noted the value of early learning not only for children, but also in terms of economic benefit for Australia, with Mr Weatherill citing KPMG research which shows that early learning “is a smart investment as every $1 of funding returns about $2.16 in increased workplace participation benefits while improving the lives of children”.
Ms Page noted the outcomes of the Lifting Our Game report, which found that children who have attended preschool are significantly more likely to make a successful transition to school and go on to complete tertiary or vocational education when they finish school.
ECA called for the many NSW parents who choose to access preschool programs within long day care settings to also be recognised, by asking the Federal Government to address the financial pressures for these families by increasing the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) by 10-15 per cent, a measure which the advocacy body said “would improve affordability and help to ensure that no child misses out on preschool education.”
This perspective was echoed by the NSW branch of the Australian Childcare Alliance who said the decision to only fund community and mobile preschools “significantly contrasts” with the move to make most ECEC fee-free from April 2020 to 12 July 2020 as mandated by the Federal Government in response to COVID-19.
While ACA NSW understands the NSW Government’s funding will benefit 700 state-funded community preschools and 38 mobile services that provide care to up to 45,000 three to five-year-olds, the organisation said it is “concerned that the NSW Government has again ignored up to 3,202 other NSW-based preschools and up to 150,000 similarly aged children”.
Across New South Wales, children enrolled for 600 hours per year in all formats of long daycare services in their year-before-school receive only $469 per child per year through the NSW Government. This is in stark difference to those same cohorts in South Australia, Queensland and Victoria operating under similar state government funding models where they receive between $2,011 to over $3,600 per child per year, ACA NSW said.
Despite the challenges, the bipartisan support for the extension bodes well for the future of early learning, Mr Weatherill said, adding “I hope all sides of politics will continue to work together for further investment and reform in the early learning system over coming years.”
“As Australian governments invest in economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, now is the time to create a universal, high quality early learning system and help secure a better future,” he said in closing.
To learn more about the announcement of free preschool, please see here.
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