More preschool funding won – more needed

This week State Early Childhood Education Minister Leslie Williams announced some additional funding supplements for NSW community based preschools as well as some changes to the Preschool Funding Model.

This has come after a concerted lobbying effort by preschools, families and peak bodies including the IEU. Leading up to the announcement we were hoping that there would be a significant injection of funds into the sector from the NSW state government.

This is not to be

There have been small increases in base funding and loadings and an increase to SEIFA rates. This will deliver increased funding for services of $13 million over four years, a preschools for Sustainable Communities Program, and a new community preschool 600 hours incentive.

Preschools for sustainable communities

Preschools in regional or remote communities with transition funding have been worried about their future when this funding stops but the announcement of the ‘thin market viability funding’ will alleviate this to a degree.

They will receive payments equal to their transition funding capped at $70,000 for another four years if they have no neighbouring services in a 10km radius.

All other regional and remote services will receive up to 80% of their transition funding again capped at $70,000 per annum.

Six hundred hours incentive

There will be bonus payments of between 5% and 15% of SEIFA rates for four and five year olds for services who increase their enrolments of four and five year olds for at least 600 hours per year. Services who already have more than 90% of their children as four and five year olds enrolled for 600 hours per year will receive a 5% bonus. We would argue that with fees still so high families will not be able to afford the 15 hours a week (600 hours a year) and the funding should be upfront.

The following issues still need to be addressed and preschools and families must continue to lobby strongly for following:

financial penalties for enrolling unfunded three year olds

the funding of three year olds to ensure all children receive a high quality early childhood education for two years

the affordability of NSW preschool education

funding challenges for all preschools, and

the inequities of the SEIFA band model of funding.

What do these changes mean for preschools in real terms?

A small injection of funds that will not even cover CPI – so fees will still increase.

Continued decreases in enrolments rather than increases as required by the state government.

Added pressure on services to meet the 15 hour requirement. The minister stated in a meeting that this could be done over two seven and a half hour days but if only three or four children can afford the extra hours this will impact on viability.

Preschools are still penalised for enrolling unfunded three year olds to fill vacancies as they try to remain viable.

So little has changed for community based preschools in NSW.

Gabe Connell
Vice President ECS