PRESCHOOLS across NSW will tomorrow protest against state government funding cuts that may force smaller facilities in the region to shut their doors.
It’s estimated up to one third of the state’s community-based preschools could face closure under a new early childhood education funding model that strips funding for three-year-olds to focus greater resources on four- and five-year-olds.
Preschool directors, staff and parents are seeing red over the decision, prompting a “Red Day of Action” across the state that will culminate in a protest rally outside Parliament House in Sydney from 7.30am tomorrow. Children, staff and parents from preschools across the region will join the protest by dressing in red.
Werris Creek Preschool director Julia Cameron is concerned for her centre and one they run for the Currabubula community in the grounds of Currabubula Public School.
With up to 80 per cent of that preschool’s students in the three-year-old age bracket, she predicts the decision “will probably be the end for Currabubula”.
She said without the funding to subsidise the cost for parents, fees would be in excess of $65 per day for a three-year-old child, putting preschool out of reach for a lot of local families and causing numbers to plummet.
Under the proposed funding model, the only three-year-olds who would receive a fee subsidy would be hose from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background or from low-income families.
Even at the bigger Werris Creek Preschool, Mrs Cameron said numbers would likely drop to a point where the days of operation would be reduced and staff numbers and hours cut.
For Alison Thompson, of Quirindi Preschool, the outlook is just as bleak.
With enrolments already underway, she said they were looking at a big intake of three-year-olds next year, but any funding change would radically reduce those numbers and lead to job losses.
Both women are angry that the funding has been cut despite a landmark report into NSW early childhood eduction, released earlier this year, outlining the importance of this experience for three-year-olds.
Federal and state government policy aims to provide all children with up to 15 hours a week of early childhood education in the year before they start school, but Mrs Cameron said the evidence was there that children performed better with two years of preschool.
The latest blow comes as preschools continue to fight for a better funding deal across the board.
NSW has been shown to have the most expensive preschool fees on average in Australia and the lowest preschool participation rates.
Advocates say there’s been a virtual funding freeze for early childhood education in NSW for more than 20 years, and too many children are starting school without any formal education experience.