School starting age changes 'serious issue': Launceston Legislative Council member Rosemary Armitage

DEBATE: Launceston Legislative Council member Rosemary Armitage said while she will keep an open mind, she was concerned about the impact of the proposed school starting age changes.
DEBATE: Launceston Legislative Council member Rosemary Armitage said while she will keep an open mind, she was concerned about the impact of the proposed school starting age changes.

Impact of the state government’s proposed school starting age on child care and the early education sector will be paramount when Launceston Legislative Council member Rosemary Armitage considers the changes.

Ms Armitage and her Legislative Council colleagues are expected to debate the changes later in the year and have been painted by those who oppose them as the last port of call to get them overturned.

“It really is a serious issue, I have been consulted on these changes since they were first put on the table,” she said.

While she said she would ‘keep an open mind’ when debating the issue, she said the impact of the decision would help inform her position.

Ms Armitage said she was concerned about the impact the changes would have not only in Launceston but into the Legislative Council area of Apsley. Apsley takes in most of the eastern side of Tasmania. It includes the Dorset municipal area, Break O’Day municipal area and Glamorgan-Spring Bay municipal area.

She said centres there had expressed their concern also they might have to close if the changes pass.

The Tasmanian contingent of the Australian Childcare Alliance presented to the City of Launceston on Monday about the impacts the proposed changes would have on Launceston’s existing child care services.

Launceston has about 20 high-quality long day care centres and a preliminary survey conducted by ACA indicated about half of them might have to close as a result of the proposed changes.

The state government has introduced a voluntary early school starting age of 3.5 years old in Tasmania, which will come into effect in 2020 if the bill passes the Legislative Council.

Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff said the government had consulted the early childhood sector from the start of the process.

“We have always considered the impact on the early childhood and care sector,” he said.

He said the changes were being made to ensure the child care and early education sectors could work collaboratively together to ensure the best outcomes for all children.

“It’s important we provide voluntary early access to school for all children but ensure great collaboration with our child care sector.”

An independent report into the changes has been commissioned.