Tasmanian government announces $3 million for early-learning facilities in schools

PLAYING: Glen Dhu Primary School kindergarten pupils Priya Ferguson and Charlie Gregg have fun in the kindergarten playground. Picture: Phillip Biggs

PLAYING: Glen Dhu Primary School kindergarten pupils Priya Ferguson and Charlie Gregg have fun in the kindergarten playground. Picture: Phillip Biggs

The state government’s decision to put additional funds into school early learning facilities just days before the Education Act is due to be tabled has been met with surprise from stakeholders.

The additional investment will see $2 million spent on indoor play spaces and $1 million on outdoor areas in play-based early learning facilities at Tasmanian schools. 

The Education Act proposes lowering the school starting age to four years and six months, although this will not be compulsory.

Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff said the funds would support works being done in the early childhood sector. 

“Today’s announcement will ensure our early learning spaces provide innovative early learning that fosters curiosity and wonder, and prepares Tasmania’s children for the first years of school,” Mr Rockliff said. 

“This will support the specialist work being undertaken by our early childhood teachers and support staff, and ensure our children have a contemporary environment that blends with the natural surrounds, to play, explore and learn.”

Tasmanian Association of State School Organisations president Ant Dry said he was bewildered by the decision. 

“We thought the Minister had already committed to a large amount of funding so we’re a little surprised that he’s announced this money, especially since it’s such a small amount per school,” Mr Dry said. 

Opposition education spokesperson Michelle O'Byrne said the government was attempting to sweeten controversial changes to the state's Education Act by throwing money at schools.

Ms O'Byrne said the government should be investigating in how to keep children at school, rather than having them start earlier.

"What we should be doing is looking at what are the points of disengagement," she said.

Mr Rockliff said the structural changes made in the proposed Education Act would give Tasmanians a better education.

“This is the next major piece of education reform that we are delivering, it follows our successful high school extension initiative, and precedes changes to the leaving requirements,” he said. 

“Our proposed changes to the Education Act represent the most significant transformation of and investment in early learning in more than half a century.”

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