Pre-school protest low-key
FRIDAY was a day of pre-school protest around New South Wales, but the protest was a low-key affair in Coffs Harbour.
Parents and staff from 20 regional community pre-schools, including Port Macquarie Community Pre-school, travelled to Sydney to join capital city pre-schools protesting to the State Government that NSW had the highest fees and the lowest level of participation of any Australian state.
In Coffs Harbour Brayside Community Pre-School held its own in-house 'day of protest' with children at the pre-school painting happy faces on white paper plates and painting other paper plates red and drawing sad faces on those.
The white happy faces and red sad faces were hung up to demonstrate the 60 per cent of happy children able to attend pre-school and the 40 per cent of unhappy children unable to attend.
The plan is to send the faces to NSW Premier Morris Iemma.
Brayside Community Pre-school director Brenda Pobjoy said parents had been amazed at the discrepancy between NSW and other states.
She said all other state averages were below $15 a day.
Port Macquarie Pre-school said the NSW average was $30 a day.
Pre-school educators say state funding has been frozen since 1989, sliding from paying for 80 per cent of their costs to around 30 per cent, which has pushed up fees, forcing parents to cut back on the number of days they send their children, remove them from pre-school altogether or send them to school early.
This in turns drops the number of children attending community pre-schools, putting further pressure on costs.
At the same time, pre-schools run by the Department of Education receive on average more than three times the funding of community pre-schools, and parents with access to one pay only $5 or $10 a day, creating a two-tier system.
The NSW Opposition has promised, if elected this month, to pump $362 million into pre-schools and transfer responsibility for them from the Department of Community Services to the Education portfolio.