AS PARENTS and teachers protested outside NSW Parliament House yesterday, local preschools voiced their anger about the potential for a new funding model to double fees for three-year-olds.
Changes proposed under a new early-childhood education funding model strip funding for three-year-olds to focus greater resources on four- and five-year-olds.
But the likes of Currabubula Preschool, a small facility with a high percentage of three-year-olds, believe it could spell the end of the service.
Julia Cameron, director of Werris Creek Preschool, which runs the Currabubula service, said without any funding subsidy, the higher fees would be out of reach for many parents and they would be forced to withdraw their child.
The subsequent drop in numbers, she believes, would force the two-day-a-week service to close.
For many others, fewer students would mean staff cuts and possibly a reduction in the number of days they opened.
For Mel Parsons, the president of the Werris Creek and District Preschool Committee, it’s a heartbreaking prospect.
She said they’d worked hard to extend the opening hours at Currabubula from one day to two and the community had worked hard to provide the facilities for the children.
“If we lose kids from the preschool, we’ll lose them from the school as well,” she said.
“If parents start sending their children to preschool in Tamworth ... they’re more likely to keep them there to start school.
“It’s a domino effect on the whole community.”
Staff, parents and students across NSW dressed in red to voice their outrage about the proposed changes, including Tamworth Montessori Preschool where director Ros Hartley shared the concern of her colleagues.
“We want to paint a picture of the heartache this is causing for parents of three-year-olds, two-year-olds and babies,” she said.
“A lot of parents do not have the money for this kind of increase,” adding if the changes went ahead, fees for a three-year-old would double to $65 a day.
For one family with three children under three, she said, the fee rise would make preschool unattainable.
“Our treasurer, Trudy Williams, said to me, ‘It’s a sad day when the service people in our community can’t afford a quality preschool’,” Mrs Hartley said.
Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson said there was still a lot of work to be done in terms of the funding model.
He said he and Education Minister Adrian Piccoli were listening to the concerns of preschools and that further information in relation to the reforms would be released soon.
Mr Anderson acknowledged preschools were worried but “we are doing all we can to support three-year-olds as well as four-year-olds and five-year-olds”.
He said transitional arrangements would be put in place for preschools and those in need could apply for special circumstances funding.