21/07/2021 - 08:00

Clarity call on preschool funding

21/07/2021 - 08:00

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The promise of ongoing federal funding for Western Australia’s preschools is clouded by a lack of details, according to an academic in education studies at Edith Cowan University.

Clarity call on preschool funding
Josh Frydenberg (right), alongside Stirling MP Vince Connelly. Photo: David Henry

The promise of ongoing federal funding for Western Australia’s preschools is clouded by a lack of details, according to an academic in education studies at Edith Cowan University.

In the recent federal budget, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced that preschools and kindergartens across Australia would benefit from about $1.6 billion in federal funding over the next four years.

That funding commitment, which should allow every four-year-old child in Australia to access 15 hours of early childhood education weekly over the next four years, comes after national funding agreements for early childhood became annualised in 2013.

WA received $32.6 million in federal funding for preschool education in the most recent financial year.

While funding commitments over the forward estimates should provide some measure of assurance to the sector, ECU’s Lennie Barblett told Business News the agreement carried with it open-ended requirements that required further details.

“What this new budget has said [is the federal government] will sign the national partnership agreement … and provide funding for kindergarten or preschool year,” Professor Barblett said.

“But there’s enough room in there for hidden items around what that signing will entail.”

Among items of concern to Professor Barblett were clauses that require preschools and kindergartens to ensure children are “school ready”, and support for the creation of a new “preschool framework”.

The latter term was particularly surprising, she said, because the Department of Education and Training had already published its early years learning framework in 2018.

And while Professor Barblett did not dispute the need for schools to work with families to identify children’s strengths and weaknesses ahead of full-time schooling, she stated her personal belief in a model that also empowered families and assisted children in their transition from preschool.

“That would be really helpful,” she said.

“When you just put some words on a page to say, ‘Watch this space’, I think we all need to keep our attention on what that space could look like.”

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