Preschool communities in the Blue Mountains have done the maths and are seeing red.
The preschool teachers and parents are angry about proposed changes to funding of community-based preschools and long day care services and the lack of adequate investment in early education by the state government.
Under the new funding model, money will be ripped from three-year-olds attending preschool and go to better resourcing four and five-year-olds instead.
It’s a move that Springwood and District Preschool Kinder-garten director Jessica Jefferies says could force some centres, including her own, to be forced to charge higher fees. She said the three-year-olds across the Blue Mountains preschools made up 30 per cent of enrolments.
“It means that Springwood Preschool may be forced to charge higher fees for three-year-olds,” Mrs Jeffries said. “They have also suggested that some preschools will receive less funding. If this were to occur to Springwood and district then our fees would have to increase for all ages.”
According to the Community Child Care Co-operative (NSW) the state government has over a number of years spent less on early education and care than any other state and territory in Australia which has meant higher preschool fees, and subsequently lower participation in early education. (The average family’s weekly cost to attend preschool in NSW is $84 compared to just $4 in the Northern Territory).
Mrs Jeffries sent two staff members to a Sydney protest rally outside Parliament House last Thursday, August 29.
“It’s just not good enough. We know that children that participate in early education do better in school and in later life. Two years of preschool is the best outcome. Eighty-five per cent of brain development occurs before five but just three per cent of state government education money is spent on early childhood education.”
Mrs Jeffries has spoken to concerned preschools in Blaxland, Winmalee and Glen-brook who are now sharing ideas on how to manage an expected smaller budget. Her own centre, which has educated an estimated 5000 children over the past 40 years, could lose $50,000 annually under the new model.
Glenbrook Preschool director Renate Gebhart-Jones said many preschools, including her own, would not see the impact of the reduction in funding until 2015 when many of their current children started primary school and an influx of three-year-olds was expected. Many services would have “major difficulties juggling financially year by year,” she said.
A spokesman for Education Minister Adrian Piccoli told Fairfax Media the funding reform would reduce fees for four- and five-year-olds by up to 26 per cent across NSW and give three-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds two consecutive years of preschool at the subsidised rate.
He said preschools which ended up with less funding under the new model would be eligible for support to help with the change.