HORSHAM Rural City Council will lobby the state and federal governments to uphold the national partnership agreement on early childhood education, which aims to give children kindergarten access for at least 15 hours a week.
As part of the agreement, the State Government provides funding for 10 hours a week, with the Federal Government footing the bill for the remaining five hours.
The agreement – which came into effect last year – will expire in December and the Federal Government is yet to renew its funding commitment.
Council’s community services director Angela Murphy said council and Horsham District Kindergarten Association had put considerable time and energy into planning for the implementation of 15 hours and promoting the development benefits to councils.
“Research undertaken both nationally and internationally indicates longer duration of preschool experience leads to improved academic outcomes for children,” she said.
“A recent parent satisfaction survey by the association indicated 98.5 per cent of parents considered 15 hours of kindergarten to be developmentally appropriate.”
Ms Murphy said the association, council and the State Government had funded refurbishments at kindergartens to increase access and allow for displaced other early years programs to prepare for universal access at Green Park, Horsham North, Roberts Avenue and Natimuk.
She said council was waiting to hear about funding applications to improve access at Green Park and Bennett Road kindergartens.
“Additional staff have been recruited to provide for increased hours, so there would be an adverse impact on staffing if the additional funding is not secured,” she said.
“Alternatively, fees would increase to such an extent that kindergarten would be unaffordable for families.”
Cr Sue Exell said the lack of clarity was disappointing.
“It’s hard to plan when one year you’re given funding to increase hours and then it’s taken away,” she said.
Council will write to members of both federal and state parliaments seeking a commitment to continue funding 15 hours of kindergarten for four year olds.