Eden Preschool – which is operated by Bega Valley Shire Council – will open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from the start of 2018, down from four days a week.
Parents were told of the changes – brought about as a result of the state government’s new funding model known as ‘Start Strong’ – when they dropped off their children to the Stanley Street facility this morning.
Under Start Strong, the preschool’s funding is determined by the characteristics of each child. More than 30 per cent of Eden Preschool’s currently enrolled children do not meet the funding criteria, leading the facility to re-think its operations in order to meet the government’s funding criteria.
Only children who meet eligibility criteria will be able to enrol next year; priority will be given to children who are due to start primary school the following year, with second-tier priority given to three-year-old children who are Aboriginal or from low income families.
Start Strong only provides funding for each eligible child to receive 15 hours a week of government-funded preschool education, equating to two days a week.
Families requiring more than two days of care a week are invited to use council’s Eden Child Care Centre in Bimmil Street.
Preschool staff have been informed of the changes. There will be no loss of jobs, instead one staff member has accepted a full-time position at Eden Child Care while another will work at both facilities.
Council’s manager for children, family and ageing, Kristina Brenner, said the Start Strong changes would affect all preschools across the shire, including those that were not council-run.
“Start Strong has a clear focus on providing opportunities for all children in the year before school, as well as offering extra support for vulnerable children from younger age groups,” Ms Brenner said.
“However, under this new model, children who do not fall into these priority areas may be unable to access a preschool place until they reach four years old.
“The staff of Eden Preschool are confident that even when its operating days change to two days per week, all children who meet Strong Start eligibility criteria will be easily accommodated at the centre,” she said.
The changes were necessary to ensure the preschool’s viability, she said.
An information session will be held at Eden Preschool from 5-6pm on Friday, September 22.