The Review of NSW Government Funding for Early Childhood Education has commented that “rapid and decisive action” is required given the “historic neglect and under-funding of early childhood education in this state”.
The NSW Government’s response to Professor Deborah Brennan’s review will mean no expansion of government pre-schools beyond the 133 classes in 100 public schools, which currently comprise just five per cent of supply. The Government will also not be abolishing fees in Department of Education and Communities (DEC) pre-schools. The Government continues to support the levying of fees that are “linked to a family’s capacity to pay”.
The future of DEC pre-school provision is not assured. In response to changing demographics which has seen some DEC pre-schools that were established to provide for disadvantaged children, now provide for children from upwardly mobile families in parts of Sydney’s inner west the Government supports Professor Brennan’s recommendation that the Department conduct an analysis of the cost of its pre-school provision, and consider refocussing its effort on meeting needs in the most disadvantaged communities.
The O’Farrell Government is continuing the trend of NSW governments since World War 2 to rely on the lower cost community sector. Pre-school teachers in the community sector earn less than DEC pre-school teachers, one example of these lower costs. The O’Farrell Government is using additional National Partnership for Early Childhood Education funding to help the not for profit community sector provide additional places and either lower fees or free access for disadvantaged children. This means that more community based pre-schools will be located in disadvantaged areas “alongside or within schools” in rural and remote areas as well as new growth areas or metropolitan areas with high numbers of refugee children. Professor Brennan went further, suggesting that “where no early childhood education provider exists, a school could allow very small numbers of children into a combined stage one program”.
Under the recommendations, capital funding would be provided to enable not for profit services to expand in areas where there are significant gaps in participation, especially for children in the equity target groups.
Funding for services will be based on resource allocation model (RAM) with a combination of base loadings and equity loadings for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children; low income; disability; limited English including refugee and recently arrived children. DEC pre-schools will be included in the school’s RAM.
Federation is seeking a briefing from the Department on its intentions and what a review of DEC pre-school provision may mean for DEC pre-school teachers