The Greens have called for a radical rethink of preschool and early learning services announcing a policy that would start to bring preschool for three and four year olds into the state’s public education system.
The plan includes a proposal to build Early Learning Centres in all new public primary schools and retrofitting existing schools over time based on local need and space availability. This investment in public preschool facilities will help ensure access to free, universal preschool for all three and four year olds for up to 15 hours per week.
Greens Early Education Spokesperson Justin Field said: “This is about putting kids first and recognising the value of quality early education and the work of educators in the sector.
“This plan also commits to supporting the many early learning services including Out of School Hours care, Playgroups and other services relying on school and council owned and managed facilities.
“Guaranteeing their tenure and ensuring facilities are appropriately maintained and upgraded. Tighter regulations to ensure childcare and preschool facilities in NSW comply with outdoor space requirements would also be introduced.
“We need greater public investment in early learning. NSW has the lowest preschool access rates and the highest fees while also having the highest rates of for-profit operators.
“We need an immediate rethink about how we deliver these critical services - one that puts kids first, “ he said.
“There is a campaign underway by the peak body concerned, the Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA) who are targeting parents in marginal seats that directly supports our plan.
“They are demanding the Government supports every single 3 and 4 year old across NSW to be able to access ‘high-quality, play-based early learning’, irrespective of if it’s long day care or preschool.
“The Greens want to see a transition away from the provision of for-profit early learning to preschool being part of the free, universal public education system. This will continue to include collaborations between schools and the community and not-for-profit preschool services and where appropriate not-for-profit long day care services.
“Other countries have moved to deliver free preschool for three and four years olds because the benefits it delivers is significant, especially for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. By bringing these services into the public education system, we can also start to address the significant issues with low pay in the sector which is having a significant impact on the gender pay gap.
“The benefit of using school grounds to construct these facilities is that they can be more easily leveraged to help deliver before and after school care, Playgroup, mothers and fathers groups and other wrap around services to support children and families including early intervention programs and postnatal and early years health services.
“This is about building a supportive learning and care environment for families from the youngest years and changing the way we think and talk about early education and care,” Field said.
The Greens plan includes:
Transition to free, universal access to preschool for all children from the age of three for a minimum of 15 hours a week.
All new primary schools in NSW to include Early Learning Centres and prioritise the construction of facilities into existing schools based on need and where space allows.
Review the rules and guidelines around facilities leasing for early learning services in schools and council facilities to ensure ongoing certainty of access.
Stricter enforcement of outdoor space requirements, with clear limits on exemptions.
A $20m OOSH and Playgroup Facilities Grant program.
Justin Field is available for comment - 0439 205 835
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