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Preschool cuts unaffordable

Friday, 23rd August, 2013

By Craig Brealey

Average families will not be able to afford to send their three-year-old children to pre-school if the NSW Government presses ahead with plans to cut funding, according to the pre-schools in Broken Hill.

The Playtime, Happy Day and Rainbow preschools are mustering support from parents and the public at large to mount a protest in the Town Square next week.

It will be held on Thursday morning to coincide with a protest at Parliament in Sydney against the plans which will not just make pre-school more expensive but threaten the livelihoods of teachers and the very future of the schools, said the director of Happy Day, Vicki Wallace.

The Government wants to cut the subsidies it provides for a three-year-old’s place at a pre-school.

“Half of our enrolments at the beginning of each year are three-year-olds, so we could lose half of our funding,” Mrs Wallace said.

“What the Government is saying is, “if you want three-year-olds in pre-school, you can pay for it yourself’. I can see people losing their jobs,” she said.

The full fee for a day at Happy Day for a three-year-old is $30 but with the government subsidy it can charge parents on low incomes $20, Mrs Wallace said. 

Apart from losing that subsidy, there were other serious consequences, she said.

“The earlier they start pre-school, the quicker we can identify if they need any additional help, such as speech pathology.

“It can take a long time to get the help so if parents put it off until they are four, then it makes it much harder.”

A spokeswoman for Playtime Preschool said that withdrawing the subsidy could put pre-school beyond the reach of the average family.

“It will be impossible for families to afford it and that will not just hurt the families and the children, but it will also affect jobs and the viability of pre-schools and long day care centres.”

Pre-schools are open between 9am and 3.15pm while long day care operates between 7am and 6pm for parents who work longer shifts.

Thursday’s “Day of Action” has been called by the Children’s Services Forum of NSW, which represents not-for-profit early education services.

The Forum says that NSW spends less than any state or territory on early education and that the Government’s own review of early education had recommended that it contribute more.

The review concluded that one of the main reasons that many children did not receive early education was because NSW had the highest fees in the nation.

Three-year-olds comprise between 30 and 50 percent of enrolments at most pre-schools, yet the Government intended to raise the fees at more than half of the them by $15 a day, according to the Community Child Care Cooperative of NSW.

The Government is proposing to cut its subsidies to all three-year-olds except for those from disadvantaged families. Parents who use community pre-schools are not eligible for the 50 per cent childcare rebate.

The State Opposition has said that the Federal Government gave NSW more money to make more places available so cutting the subsidies was completely unnecessary.

The NSW Government has argued that its funding “reform” would cut fees for the four-and-five-year-olds by 26 percent and that pre-schools that suffer from the change would be eligible for financial help.

The protest in Broken Hill will be held between 7.30am and 8.30am so that it coincides with the one in Sydney.

The public is invited to show their support, and information and red balloons will be given out to everyone in the Town Square. 

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