The Tasmanian Greens have released a policy alternative to the state government’s plan to lower the mandatory school starting age.
Greens MP Andrew Dawkins said the $60 million over four years would be better directed to Child and Family Centres which help to target at-risk children and families.
The government has proposed to lower the mandatory starting age for Prep to four-and-a-half and the Kindergarten starting age to three-and-a-half.
“The evidence does not support that bringing children to school those six month earlier into a formal education setting has the desired outcomes,” she said.
Ms Dawkins said for some pupils it will mean their first taste of education will be sitting at a desk, five days a week in school uniform and being assessed against curriculum, which could harm engagement.
Instead, the Greens policy would see 11 new Child and Family Centres delivered over four years, in areas such as Longford, Deloraine, Scottsdale and Youngtown.
Ms Dawkins said community consultation would best determine the areas of highest need, and proposed that regions with low Index of Community SocioEducational Advantage (ICSEA) scores, high youth populations and no immediate access take priority.
“They build that bridge between a family and the community into the school system, in a supportive and natural environment,” she said
“They provide so much support in the form of psychologists, social workers, speech pathologists, nutritionists, the kind of support a child from a less advantaged area really needs to be able to engage with education.”
She said the centres already in Tasmania had a proven track record of helping to re-engage parents, and a focus on play-based learning in the early years was the best way forward.
The Greens estimate the policy would cost a total of $50.3 million over four years, with an expected cost of $7.7 million a year after the rollout is complete.