Preschool enrolements ‘lagging’ across NSW, says MP

(L-R) Harry King, Charlie Ferrarin and Ollie Wei at Gowrie NSW Early Education and Care centre in Erskineville, Sydney. 6th September 2017 Photo: Janie Barrett for Fairfax Media.
(L-R) Harry King, Charlie Ferrarin and Ollie Wei at Gowrie NSW Early Education and Care centre in Erskineville, Sydney. 6th September 2017 Photo: Janie Barrett for Fairfax Media.

A report from Early Childhood Australia has found the number of children participating in early childhood education in the two years before primary school is lagging. 

The 2017 State of Early Learning in Australia report found only 77 per cent of children in NSW were enrolled in more than 600 hours of preschool in the year before school, significantly less than 97 per cent in our southern neighbour, Victoria, in 2015. 

NSW has the most expensive early childhood education and some of the poorest attendance on record across Australia.

Australian Bureau of Statistics

NSW Greens Early Childhood Education spokesperson and Milton resident Justin Field has called on the NSW Government to increase its investment in government preschools in an effort to boost preschool enrolements.

Mr Field said early childhood education is an investment that pays significant dividends for children and society as a whole.  

“There is significant evidence of the importance of early education for setting children up for good academic achievement and, equally important, being able to fully participate in society and have fulfilling lives,” he said.

“The report shows NSW is lagging behind the rest of Australia and the majority of the world’s leading economies when it comes to providing quality education in the crucial years leading up to the start of formal primary school.

“While the early childhood education and childcare care sector needs a diversity of options for parents, greater investment is needed in public preschools to boost attendance and reduce the costs to parents.”

The report also found Australia is ranked in the bottom third of nations for rates of early childhood education at the age of three and we lag behind other OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries in early education enrolement rates for four-year-olds.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures from last year show NSW has the most expensive early childhood education and some of the poorest attendance on record across Australia.

NSW childcare fees are the highest in the country. Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics.

NSW childcare fees are the highest in the country. Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In addition, NSW has one of the lowest levels of government run preschools as part of the early education sector compared to other states, a fact Mr Field said contributes to low attendance numbers. 

“We can’t afford for children in NSW to fall any further behind others states and the rest of the world,” he said.

“Every child deserves better and the need is urgent among the disadvantaged in our community.

“There is arguably no greater investment a government can make than giving children the best possible start in life so they can achieve their full potential and live their best lives.”