Free preschool pro­gram

The Gazette (Derwent Valley) - - NEWS - JAMES KITTO

PAR­ENTS of el­i­gi­ble three­year-olds in the Der­went Val­ley will be among the first in Tas­ma­nia to trial a new free preschool place­ment pro­gram.

Last year, the State Gov­ern­ment scrapped its con­tro­ver­sial plan to lower the school start­ing age and de­cided in- stead to im­ple­ment an ad­di­tional year of preschool for vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren by 2020.

The State Gov­ern­ment will to­day an­nounce a pi­lot pro­gram for its pol­icy, with King­bor­ough and the Der­went Val­ley among the first of five lo­ca­tions.

The five pi­lot sites will pro­vide about 50 preschool spots.

“Re­search tells us that if we want to im­prove life­long ed­u­ca­tion and well­be­ing out­comes, then the best time to in­vest is in the early years of life when chil­dren learn to com­mu­ni­cate, get along with oth­ers and con­trol and adapt their be­hav­iour, emo­tions and think­ing,’’ Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Jeremy Rock­liff said.

“Work­ing To­gether for Three Year Olds will open up preschool ac­cess op­por­tu­ni­ties for a num­ber of el­i­gi­ble three­year-olds.

“These trial sites will of­fer fam­i­lies who haven’t been able to ac­cess preschool pro­grams the op­tion of 400 hours each year of free early learn­ing for their three-year-olds.”

The new pol­icy will pro­vide up to 2500 free preschool place­ments from 2020.

“The project team will then work in part­ner­ship with the Tas­ma­nian Coun­cil of So­cial Ser­vice, par­ents and car­ers at these five pi­lot sites to fur­ther fine tune the full roll­out in 2020,’’ Mr Rock­liff said.

Der­went Val­ley Mayor Ben Shaw said the pro­gram was worth tri­alling in the Val­ley.

“I wouldn’t like to take away jobs and ed­u­ca­tion from our early learn­ing cen­tres, but it’s re­ally be­come un­af­ford­able for fam­i­lies in some cases,” he said.

“I can see ar­gu­ments for and against the pro­gram but it could po­ten­tially put a part­ner of a fam­ily back into work.”

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