Byron Bay, Lismore and Goonellabah preschools will benefit from recent NSW government infrastructure grants.
Parliamentary secretary for northern NSW Ben Franklin (Nationals) said the Start Strong grants will go towards constructing a new building at Byron Bay Preschool, a new room at Goonellabah Preschool and a purpose built flood resilient structure at Lismore Preschool.
He said, ‘The north coast’s future doctors, teachers and lawyers are being shaped in our preschools as we speak, so it really is an investment in the future of our community.’
The government press release claims that the grants build on their recent announcement ‘that preschool fees in NSW have reduced by an average of 25 per cent, following an historic investment of $330 million to ensure more children have access to 600 hours of quality, affordable early childhood education.’
But local NSW MP Tamara Smith (Greens) told The Echo, ‘The Start Strong funding is purely for infrastructure, so there is no evidence it will reduce fees.’
‘NSW spends the lowest amount per child – as a percentage of state expenditure; NSW has the lowest proportion of spending in the country at 0.4 per cent.’
‘Parents in NSW have to pay more than any other state to access preschool services, so it’s no wonder we also have the lowest participation rate and lowest attendance rate in preschool for children in the year before starting school.
‘The government is aiming for 15 hours per week at preschool in the year before school, when most children are aged four, but many other countries have free, full-time early childhood education for two years before school – so NSW is a mile behind.
‘We have a lot of ground to make up, and providing infrastructure grants alone will not address the extent to which our children need to catch up to their peers in other states and other countries.
‘We should be investing in educators and working towards universal free access to quality early childhood education in the two years before primary school.’