Preschool funding a backwards step?

Gabe Connell
Vice President ECS

Over the last couple of months the new preschool funding model has been rolled out across NSW with information sent to services and a roadshow across the state.

Extra money has been added to the SEIFA Band base rates but at what cost?

To be eligible for the higher base rates services will have certain conditions they have to meet:

  • A child will need to be at least four years old on or before 31 July in the year before school
  • At least three years old on or before 31 July and be from a disadvantaged background or identify as Aboriginal, and
  • Must attend an early childhood program for 600 hours a year.

What does this mean for services, teachers and families?

At the moment most services are looking at how they can extend their hours so children can attend 7.5 hours a day. This has big industrial implications with staff having to work longer hours and when you consider the low wages and conditions many work under how can we ever hope to attract and retain teachers in the sector.

The DoE states that 75% of the new funding must be passed on to reduce fees and that children from disadvantaged families should only pay $10 a day.

How will services pay the increased wages and reduce fees to this extent? Many are struggling with this and say they won’t be able to meet these conditions especially as they still have not received written confirmation of their new funding amounts so are finding it extremely difficult to set budgets and fees.

Three year olds will not be funded unless they are from a disadvantaged background or identify as Aboriginal and attend 600 hours a year.

The latest research states that two years of preschool could improve academic results and reduce the learning gap. Once upon a time two years of preschool was funded – now we seem to be taking a backward step.

As well as this, families who don’t want longer days for their children will be forced into this model or their children will not be funded 100%. These children will be funded on a sliding scale from 50% -0% depending on the number of hours they attend.

This is the third funding model since the funding freeze of 2016.

While the new money is certainly welcome and fees will reduce for many families, is this the best model and the best way forward?