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Byron Shire
May 24, 2024

After school care phased out 

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After school care.

Byron Council will cease providing out of school hours care (OSHC) in the shire after deciding that the cost and regulatory burden is too great to bear.

In a move that was opposed by many of the families using the services and the staff who work at them, a majority of councillors voted last month to relinquish Council’s licences for the services at Byron Bay and Brunswick Heads public schools. These are the only two remaining Council-run OSHC services in the Byron Shire.

The decision does not mean that the services will close. Rather, Council has promised to keep them open until the NSW Department of Education has undertaken a tender process to find new providers.

These providers will almost certainly be from the private sector, a fact which has raised concerns among families and staff about the quality of care children will now receive at the services.

‘Many other [non-Council] services operate on a single educator model, which means legally, they are able to run on a ratio of 1:15,’ said Kori Nemme, whose child attends ones of the Council-run services.

‘This ratio is unable to provide quality care and maintain health and safety standards.’ 

Dr Nemme, who has a PhD in early childhood education, went on to say that the current Council OSHC services had established good relationships with the children, provided quality care, and consistently received positive feedback from families.

‘Let’s not mess it up,’ she said. ‘Let’s not create further issues for our children which will then affect the whole community.’

But Dr Nemme’s entreaties did not convince councillors to keep hold of the licences.

More convincing, it seemed, was an internal service review undertaken by Council staff showing that Council had been carrying an unsustainable financial and regulatory burden in delivering OSHC services.

Council experienced an overall loss of $114,600 for the 2023/24 financial year for OSHC services, the review found, continuing a trend going back a number of years.

‘Operating within this sector requires specialist skills, knowledge, and experience to effectively balance quality educational outcomes with strong governance and management that ensures service viability and sustainability,’ Esmerelda David, Council’s Director Corporate and Community Services, said in her written report to councillors. 

‘This is becoming increasingly challenging for Council.’ 

The decision to relinquish the licences ends Council’s direct involvement in providing OSHC care in the shire.

Mullum handed over

The OSHC service at Mullumbimby Public School has already been handed over to an alternative provider, because it was not viable financially.

Council and the new service provider, Rainbow Region Kids, finalised the transition at the end of last year.

It is not expected that fees will rise once the handover to private providers has taken place. 

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