Country parents hope NSW promises will remember to account for rural lives
Rural families have cautiously welcomed the New South Wales Government’s commitment to introduce a pre-kindergarten year of education by 2030, urging decision makers to consider that for many in their communities, access to early learning is a long distance affair.
Speaking to the ABC Bec Bunyan, a mother from Booligal, in southern New South Wales, outlined that taking her son to preschool involves a 200 kilometre road trip along rural roads.
“Any investment into zero to five-year-olds is fantastic and well overdue,” she said, “but the reality for people like us is that we wouldn’t ever be able to use five days a week because of the distance.”
Ms Bunyan would like to see the Government increase travel subsidies for rural families, and consider a program of flexible delivery for rural and regional communities, such as mobile preschools.
Her perspective was shared by President of the NSW Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association, Tanya Mitchell, who said the initiatives were welcome but she had concerns about accessibility for rural families.
“There is concern that a lot of this will advantage our metropolitan counterparts however we will continue to advocate for our members in rural and remote areas,” Ms Mitchell said.
Staffing for the expanded offering in rural and regional areas could be problematic, Charles Sturt University academic Dr Leanne Gibbs continued, warning the Government that simply funding training programs to boost educator numbers was not enough.
“One of the reasons that they leave the sector after only a few years of working in it is because the pay is not high enough,” she said.
“People can’t support their families, they often go to the school sector because the pay is actually higher.”
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