Not good enough: more funds needed

PICTURED RIGHT: Cooma Lambie Street staff Michelle Buchanan, Alison Dooley, Tanya Janota, Catherine Dodd, Dianne Smith, Cathy Toohey and Heather van der Plaat.

PICTURED RIGHT: Cooma Lambie Street staff Michelle Buchanan, Alison Dooley, Tanya Janota, Catherine Dodd, Dianne Smith, Cathy Toohey and Heather van der Plaat.

AT the recent Isolated Children's Parents' Association (ICPA) of NSW State conference, early childhood education, the inability for many to access these facilities, and the proposed funding changes from the state government were high on the agenda.

ICPA of NSW president Duncan Taylor, of Nimmitabel, said the NSW government's policy that every child should have access to 15 hours per week of early childhood education was simply "not happening".

"Children in regional and remote areas simply don't have access to those services," Mr Taylor said.

"The ICPA of NSW is placing a lot of attention on how we can get access to the 15 hours a week for rural families."

Mr Taylor said there were alternative ways to deliver the services where populations were thin.

One idea would be to deliver early childhood services out of local schools using existing infrastructure and possibly existing staffing.

Working against them is the state government's proposed model for early childhood education, which strips funding for three-year-olds to focus greater resources on four-and five-year-olds.

At present, the state government provides funding for both three and four-year-olds, but funding will be limited to four-year-olds only and three-year-olds with a disability and of indigenous background.

One third of the state's community based preschools face closure under the new funding model.

The model, to take effect next year, could also force fee rises of more than $15 a day in more than 50 per cent of centres, according to the Community Child Care Co-operative (NSW).

One such centre is the Cooma Lambie Street Preschool where director Cathy Toohey was concerned a lack of funding would mean prices would have to rise.

"It's just not good enough - the NSW government spends less on early education per child than any other state or territory," Mrs Toohey said.

"We need greater investment in our children by the NSW government."

A report produced in September 2013 by the Melbourne Graduate School of Education stated "to realise the potential of all students, children need access to high quality learning programs from before they turn three until school".

Mr Taylor agreed early childhood education produces better outcomes across a range of areas including education, social outcomes, early intervention and screening for health issues.

"There is an enormous amount of evidence mounting that early childhood education is the area of greatest return on investment for the government," Mr Taylor said.

"Getting children into early childhood services also gives an opportunity to work across a range of areas including delinquency."

The government has guaranteed funding for these services will be maintained until the end of 2015.

"(The ICPA) will be approaching the government during the transition period before the new funding model is set to commence," Mr Taylor said.

"It is our job to step in and fight for them as we would hate to see those communities lose their early childhood services."

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