The business health check, stage one of the operational support program offered to preschools on transitional funding, is getting a poor report card from directors who have experienced it, Bedrock Journalist Sue Osborne writes.
The NSW Government scheme aims to assist preschools find ways to improve their business plans to adjust to the new funding model introduced following the Review of NSW Government Funding for early Childhood Education by Professor Deborah Brennan in 2012.
However, directors are reporting they are spending hours explaining how preschools run to business advisors with no background in the early childhood sector.
Funded by the State Government, each preschool is assigned a business advisor from the area’s business enterprise centre, who comes and visits and then writes a report. This is stage one of a two-stage plan which continues into 2016.
The transitional funding for preschools runs out in 2017, and many directors fear they will still be unviable, despite the intervention.
“Really it is just a bit of PR covering up the fact the funding model is unsustainable,” St Stephen’s Preschool Director and IEU ECS Council member Ariane Simon said.
“It’s an enormous waste of time,” she said.
West Albury Preschool Director Jennie Kelly said she was not sure if the program was compulsory or not, but felt that if she did not participate, it might not be well regarded by the Government.
Ariane also said if she didn’t participate “it could be interpreted that we didn’t care about the future of preschools”.
Jennie said: “The advisor who came to us had no understanding of preschools, and did not understand the implications of the funding changes like we do. We had to educate him. He might know about business but he doesn’t know about preschools. We didn’t get one useful thing out of it.
“I was particularly concerned by the suggestion that we review employment contracts for part-time staff. When I asked what was meant by this suggestion, I was told that it makes sense to review staffing as it is our greatest expense, to try to get the best fit for the funding model”.
Jennie said the foundation of the funding model, the Social Economic Index For Areas (SEIFA) was flawed and led to preschools quite close to each other receiving hugely disparate funding levels from government.