NSW Government to invest $474.3 million in early childhood education

​KEEN TO LEARN: Two-year-old Tom Altmann will be eligible for a subsidy when he starts attending Gunnedah Baptist Community Preschool next year. He is pictured here with his mum Michelle. Photo: Vanessa Höhnke
​KEEN TO LEARN: Two-year-old Tom Altmann will be eligible for a subsidy when he starts attending Gunnedah Baptist Community Preschool next year. He is pictured here with his mum Michelle. Photo: Vanessa Höhnke

Gunnedah families have welcomed the news that three-year-olds will be subsidised for pre-school from 2019.

On Wednesday, the NSW Government announced $474.3 million for early childhood education in the 2018-19 Budget, giving three-year-olds access to two days a week of subsidised pre-school education.

Minister for Early Education Sarah Mitchell said “NSW will be the first state in Australia to subsidise all three-year-olds in community preschools”.

“It also means more children in NSW will be given the headstart they deserve on their educational journeys and will start school even more equipped with the social, cognitive and emotional skills that a quality early childhood education provides,” she said.

It will now be affordable for parents to send their three-year-olds more than one day a week.

Julie Frend, Gunnedah Baptist Community Preschool

Gunnedah Baptist Community Preschool director Julie Frend has been advocating support for three-year-olds for almost two years and said the announcement is “wonderful news”.

“This is something we’ve been hoping for, for quite a while,” she said. 

Mrs Frend said parents of children who turned three after July 31 are currently pay $55 per day, compared to the $20 they will pay from next year. 

“It’s a big relief to those families who have been paying high fees to let their three-year-old come into pre-school, and I think having two years of pre-school will be an amazing benefit to prepare these children for mainstream schooling,” she said.

The pre-school currently has more than 50 three-year-olds enrolled, with half attending one day a week. 

“It will now be affordable for parents to send their three-year-olds more than one day a week,” Mrs Frend said.

“If children are able to start when they’re three-year-olds they can spend that first year getting used to the environment and the routine and socialising, so when they are then enrolled in their school readiness year they can hit the ground running and start to learn a lot of skills that will advantage their learning when they get to mainstream school.”

Gunnedah mum Michelle Altmann and her husband Adam will be sending their two-year-old Tom to the Baptist pre-school next year and said the subsidy “will make a huge difference” financially.

“It means we’ll be able to send him two days a week now,” she said.

“It’s a massive saving over the course of the year.”

Pomeline Hoddle (3), Jack Jolliffe (4) and Fini Sheedy (3) at Gunnedah Baptist Community Preschool. Pomeline and Fini missed out on the subsidy this year because of their age, while Jack's days can be subsidised because he is four. Photo: Vanessa Höhnke

Pomeline Hoddle (3), Jack Jolliffe (4) and Fini Sheedy (3) at Gunnedah Baptist Community Preschool. Pomeline and Fini missed out on the subsidy this year because of their age, while Jack's days can be subsidised because he is four. Photo: Vanessa Höhnke

Mrs Altmann said their daughter Sophie received the subsidy at three because her birthday was in April, however, Tom’s birthday is in December, so he would have missed out.

“[The subsidy] makes it so much more affordable and it’s fairer,” she said.

“I know a lot of my friends whose kids were after the cut-off as well and they were really happy to hear about the subsidy.”

A reduction in fees, and improved access to appropriate early education would have a profound impact on young families like ours.

Kaitlyn Bywater

Fellow Gunnedah mum Katie Avard and her husband Chris will also be sending her son along to the Baptist pre-school next year and said she and her husband would now look at sending him two or three days a week.

“It’ going to be amazing for us because we would have had to pay the full rate for Henry and a lot of people probably wouldn’t send their kids if they had to pay that,” she said.

“I think [the subsidy] is fabulous. I think it will encourage a lot of people to sending their kids to pre-school that wouldn’t before.”

Mrs Avard said by reducing the cost of sending kids to pre-school, parents could then spend that saving on packing lunches and it “makes it much more worthwhile” for those who are travelling a distance.

Kaitlyn Bywater with her partner and son Colby who can receive subsidised pre-school education from next year.

Kaitlyn Bywater with her partner and son Colby who can receive subsidised pre-school education from next year.

Gunnedah mum Kaitlyn Bywater echoed Ms Avard’s thoughts and said the news is a “huge relief” because she is planning to send her toddler to pre-school next year.

“The financial strain of having multiple children in daycare can really impact on a family’s well-being,” she said.

“Returning to work next year after having baby number two means two children in care several days a week, which even with a part-time income gives me real concerns about the long-term sustainability of care for our family.

“A reduction in fees, and improved access to appropriate early education would have a profound impact on young families like ours.”

Minister Mitchell said $42.1 million in additional capital grants funding over four years will increase also supply of preschool places where it is needed most and Start Strong funding for pre-school education will continue in community preschools and long daycare for all children in the year before school and equity three-year-old, underpinned by a demand-based funding model that responds to population growth.

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