Parents pay more
PARENTS are being asked to pay up to $300 more for their children to attend longer sessions at preschool under a policy of the Federal and State governments.
The State Government has chosen to fund 60 per cent of the cost for a child to stay at some kinders for 15 hours a week.
That was despite governments fully funding pilot programs before the broader 15 hour a week policy came into effect this year.
The Federal Government increased the weekly requirement from 10 hours to 15 to help children “learn and develop the cognitive, physical and socio-emotional skills which make school adjustment easier and provide the foundation for future learning,” a government spokesperson said.
Leongatha’s Hassett Street Preschool is one South Gippsland kindergarten experiencing a funding gap.
Director Jodie McGannon said: “They (government) only fund us for 60 per cent of what they deem it costs for a child to come.
“The rest has to come from fundraising and parent fees. The government did increase the funding but it’s still 60 per cent of the overall cost.”
Hassett Street Preschool has employed an additional assistant and lunchtime assistant to cope with the increased teaching hours.
The YMCA runs kindergartens at Mirboo North, Inverloch and Wonthaggi.
Fees at Mirboo North last year were $700 for 11 hours per week over 40 weeks of the year, equating to an hourly rate of $1.59.
This year, for 15 hours over 40 weeks at Mirboo North, the fees are $1000 or $1.66 per hour,
said Julie Beatty, manager of Y Kindergarten Cluster Management. Eligible parents can receive a $300 rebate from Centrelink.
“The fees at Inverloch last year were also $700 but they were operating a pilot program of 15 hours which attracted extra funding from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. This year the fees at Inverloch are $1000,” Ms Beatty said.
“Because the families are coming for longer, the fees have gone up.”
The YMCA’s two kindergartens in Wonthaggi are not offering 15 hour weeks due to awaiting new facilities to cope with the longer weeks.
Korumburra Kindergarten has increased parent fees slightly to cover the increased hours, but parents have been supportive of that move, said committee president Jenni Enbom.
“We are still getting a government subsidy for each child but it was not going to cover everything,” she said.
South Gippsland Shire Council paid for the Korumburra Kindergarten to be extended last year to allow for a bigger room to cater for a single group of 40 children with five staff, four days a week. The group gathered for its first session last week.
The larger group was the only option available to ensure the kindergarten could also offer three year old sessions.
“Hopefully the kids will adapt to it and will run really smoothly,” Ms Enbom said.
Leongatha Children’s Centre four year old program is fully funded and was a participant in the pilot program.
Poowong Preschool has raised fees slightly from last year, said parents committee member Tammy Logan.
“As a small preschool we need to be aware of the additional costs of the extra hours and whether funding from the government will cover all of these, that is additional staff, extra day of cleaning, additional materials used to provide the program and increased essential service costs,” she said.
“So far we have had a very positive start to the year and are getting to know all the new families in the group, and are aiming to work with our families and community to continue to provide the quality service that Poowong Preschool has a reputation for.”
Asked why governments were only funding 60 per cent of the cost per child, a Federal Government spokesperson said: “The Australian Government is contributing $955 million directly to state and territory governments over five years. Of this, Victoria has received $210.6 million. The Commonwealth has met its commitment to fund this program in Victoria since 2008.
“At no stage was it ever the intention that the Commonwealth would pay a set percentage per student. The amount of funding allocated per student for kindergarten is set by state and territory governments.”
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