MASCOT PUBLIC SCHOOL PRESCHOOL
Mr RON HOENIG (Heffron) [12.12 p.m.]: I bring to the attention of the House the plight of parents and the parents and citizens association of Mascot Public School who in October this year were informed by the Department of Education and Communities that the preschool hours at their school would be cut from 30 hours to 15 hours. Mascot Public School has one of the State's 100 government-run preschool centres. I am told that it has been operating for as long as 40 years and is an integral part of Mascot Public School. As has been the case in previous years, applications were open from 18 June to 8 September for parents wishing to enrol their children in the preschool for 2013.
Mascot preschool is heavily supported by parents whose children attend the school, the parents and citizens association and parents of children in the local community. Prior to 2012, the fees for children attending the preschool were $80 a week, which, in effect, paid for the lunch that was provided to the children from the magnificent kitchen at the school by staff engaged for that purpose. This year, by departmental edict, the fees have been increased to $160 a week. Some 40 children are enrolled in Mascot preschool on the understanding that it will be open for 30 hours a week, as it has been. Many of those preschool children have siblings at Mascot Public School and the preschool and school operate on a similar schedule.
In October this year an announcement was made by the deputy director general of the Department of Education that because of the State Government's commitment to the national agreement to provide a minimum of 15 hours of preschool education to every child in New South Wales by next year, henceforth the 30-hour operating period will have to be adjusted across all preschools to provide the agreed service. The National Partnership for Early Childhood Education, which this State and all States of the Commonwealth are signed up to, provides universal access to early childhood education right across the State and the nation by mid-2013 to ensure that every child has access to a preschool education 12 months prior to full-time schooling.
The National Partnership for Early Childhood Education agreement was specifically designed to provide preschool education that had not previously been provided. It was never intended to be used by the State of New South Wales to cut an existing service. In fact, the Federal Government had provided a funding offer of $970 million to help deliver early childhood education for four-year-old children. It was under that particular funding agreement that all governments committed to providing 15 hours per week of early childhood education. It is not appropriate for the New South Wales Government to cut an existing service and to cut it so late in the term that it causes such inconvenience to the parents of children attending Mascot Public School.
On 9 November 2012 the Gillard Government offered almost $1.1 billion in new funding for preschools. However, as a result of the New South Wales Government's decision, Mascot Public School has to sack the kitchen staff who were employed to provide food for children at the school and reduce its staff complement to provide for only 15 hours per week at the preschool, which will cause maximum inconvenience to parents. I ask that consideration be given to utilising the $1.1 billion newly announced funding by the Federal Government to enable Mascot Public School to continue to provide its current preschool service.