Services look for voice on schools plan

Childcare providers from across the state met in Launceston to form a ‘consolidated voice’ on proposed education reforms on Thursday. 

Mr Biddulph and Ms Walsh.

Mr Biddulph and Ms Walsh.

Early Childhood Australia Tasmanian branch president Jo Walsh said its roundtable of about 50 people aimed to let childcare centres from smaller communities express their concerns. 

“We need a voice, we need a strong voice, we need a consolidated voice, because we need to make sure our sector is represented fairly throughout this,” she said.

While the government proposes a voluntary lower school starting age, Ms Walsh said most Tasmanian children attended kindergarten now even though it was not compulsory. That trend would still apply with a non-compulsory lower starting age, ECA believes. 

Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff said the new legislation, which recently passed parliament, recognised the rights of all Tasmanian children to access two years of quality, play-based, enquiry-led learning before starting formal schooling.

“This legislation also includes the clause that to implement the voluntary earlier starting age, the government is to develop an implementation plan which will address concerns raised by the childcare sector.”

Psychologist Steve Biddulph, who attended as an observer and guest, said the outstanding concern at the meeting was “how little consideration the government had given to the negative effects on children and families of taking very young children into an inappropriate environment for their needs.”

“Especially in rural and disadvantaged communities, it’s the early education sector that holds the key to better futures, because it’s in the first three years that children are most shaped … Yet this sector looks to be decimated, in a consequence which the framers of the new Education Act seem to have not even thought to consider. Even in urban areas, the loss of children to early school starting would lead to closures and amalgamations, leaving parents of under threes with nowhere to take them.”