As students and educators return for the 2021 school year, the NSW Nationals in the state government have launched a $120 million program aimed at providing certainty in the preschool sector.
The free preschool program was initially introduced in mid-2020 as part of the government’s COVID-19 response package, but with continuing uncertainty relating to the pandemic, it was announced in November’s state budget that it would continue in 2021.
NSW Nationals Member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders and NSW Nationals Minister for Early Childhood Learning Sarah Mitchell visited Dubbo and District Preschool on Thursday to hear how the program had helped local families.
“There has been so much uncertainty in communities because of COVID but we didn’t want a situation where people had to make a decision between sending their kids to preschool or spending that money on other living costs,” Mr Saunders said.
“The years prior to school are vital to a child’s development, and it’s great that this program has not only kept children at preschool but also provided certainty to the wonderful people who work in the early childhood learning sector.”
Ms Mitchell said even during the toughest times, the education of children should be the top priority for families and government.
“Early childhood education is so important, especially in those critical two years before school,” she said.
Dubbo and District Preschool business manager Kristen McWhirter said the program has minimised COVID’s impact on the centre.
“The funding has aided in minimising the effect the loss of fees has had on our operations, ensuring the retention of staff and continuation of providing a high-quality service for all stakeholders,” Ms McWhirter said.
“Our families have been pleased to hear of this funding because they want to do the best for their children, and this funding allows them to access early education without having to compromise other essentials for the family.”