The Federal Government announced over the weekend that it would provide $840m over two years for preschool programs in Australia; however the IEU has warned that the some of the state’s preschools risk closing down unless the funding is extended beyond 2017.
The IEU’s early childhood officer, Verena Heron, said that unless the NSW Government extends funding for preschools for the next four years, there is a “real danger” that some preschools in regional and rural areas will close in 2017, when transitional funding dries up.
“The universal funding announced by the Federal Government only applies to four-year-olds in the year before school. This means that three year-olds continue to be unfunded,” Heron, said.
“As a result many three-year-olds with additional learning needs are missing out on a year of vital intervention that could aid their learning throughout their lives.”
Heron added that the issue also meant that preschools in areas with smaller populations would not remain viable due to dwindling enrolments.
“Research has shown time and again that quality education for children aged 0-5 benefits their outcomes and learning throughout their lives, and therefore benefits the economy and the community as a whole,” Heron said.
Australian Education Union’s (AEU) federal president, Correna Haythorpe, also slammed the Abbott Government’s decision not to extend the funding beyond 2017.
“This decision is a relief, but it does not deliver the long-term certainty that we need to establish high quality early childhood education for all four-year-olds,” Haythorpe said.
“The Abbott Government has finally listened and made pre-school a priority – but it is disappointing that they have refused to guarantee funding beyond 2017.”
Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, told Sky News that next week's budget will fund two more years of the Universal Access program that guarantees all four-year-olds up to 15 hours a week at preschool.
'It's very important that as many young Australians as possible that don't just go to childcare but they have preschool as well, and that's what this money is guaranteeing,' Abbott said.
Education Minister, Christopher Pyne, said the program’s funding would be indexed for the first time.
'There's absolutely no excuse whatsoever for the states and territories to not provide a full 15 hours minimum of preschool for four-year-olds in Australia,' Pyne said.
Under the Government’s new funding plan, the states and territories will get $415m in 2016 and $425m in 2017.