Funding pre-schools

There have been a couple of articles (probably because it is the silly season) recently about the unaffordability of pre-schools in NSW, compared with other Australian states. The vast majority of pre-schools in NSW cost about $30 a day, with most children going for the year before school, for two or three days a week. They are generally for six hours a day, during school terms only, so are only an option for families where at least one parent either has very flexible working hours, or stays at home to look after the children.

Those families generally don’t have as much money as others, so $60 or $90 a week (for 40 hours a year thats $2,400 to $3,600) is real money. If, for example, you are a single parent with no support from your child’s other parent, the single parent allowance is $13,365 a year. It’s fairly clear from this study that preschool, particularly good quality preschool, is an excellent way to help children into the education system.

Children who experience high quality pre-school for a long duration have the most advantage in intellectual and social development when they start school.

But that’s not all. A preschool program in the US focusing on disadvantaged children – Headstart has been shown to be one of the most economically effective ways of reducing crime and juvenile delinquency, not to mention the advantage in better lives that graduates will have by getting more out of schools than their peers who didn’t get the preschool education.

So preschool has a much bigger effect on a child’s later learning if they start of disadvantaged by their home environment.

But here in NSW, unless you’re lucky enough to live where there is a preschool funded by the Department of Education (there are about 100) you have to pay a not insignificant amount to send your child to preschool. Not only that, but it’s hard to build a new preschool. Councils will generally try to encourage long day care centres, because state and federal governments are trying to encourage them. You are more likely to get council approval for a long day centre than a preschool, everything else being equal. So we ended up sending both our sons to long day care, instead of a preschool, because we failed to put their names down at birth for the local preschool.

It’s a classic problem of the electoral cycle; preschool is a very long term investment, and governments aren’t really interested in long term investments. But the more I read about it, the more I think that preschool is one of the most valuable investments that society can make.

  3 comments for “Funding pre-schools

  1. booshkie
    January 9, 2007 at 7:58 pm

    I don’t see the point of preschools. The hours are shorter. They close for school holidays. AND you have to provide the kids’ food! I’m not sure if they actually offer anything extra in terms of education, that the long-day care centres don’t.

    Maybe I’m just lucky with the childcare centre I got places in. They have a transition to school program and my 4 yo son has been learning Greek. With another year before he starts school he’s going to be well and truly ready for the challenges of kindergarten without ever attending a preschool.

  2. January 9, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    I agree – long day care centres are just as good – but if you’re not working at the same time, a long day care centre is pretty expensive. Hungry Boy is learning Japanese at his – he can say “shinkansen” (bullet train!)

  3. January 10, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    Yes, many long daycare centres run a preschool program, which I think means they have to employ qualified early childhood teachers for the four year olds – I’m not sure if there are curriculum requirements as well. My son went to such a program within a long daycare centre, which killed two birds with one stone. (He went for 2-3 days a week the year he was four, it was an excellent program with a transition to school component.) I’d be interested to find out what percentage of long daycare centres run preschool programs and specifically whether the big daycare chains like ABC fulfill the preschool requirements.

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