COLAC parents and school leaders are concerned children will be unprepared for school if kindergarten hours drop from 15 to 10 a week.
A national partnership agreement between state and federal governments resulted in the Victorian Government funding 10 hours a week of kindergarten education since last year, with the Federal Government funding five hours.
The agreement, signed in 2008, expires in December, and the Federal Government is yet to commit to continuing the funding plan, leaving kindergartens in limbo.
The National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care prescribes 15 hours a week of kindergarten or pre-school for four-year-olds in preparation for starting school.
Colac speech therapist Simone Hay sends her third child to four-year-old kinder at Colac’s Wydinia Early Learning Centre and says the 15 hours have benefited son Jed.
“He is absorbing so much from kinder that it would be a shame for it to go back to two sessions after having had three sessions a week this year,” Mrs Hay said.
“Kinder enables him to be curious and investigative and have opportunities that I am not able to provide at home,” she said.
The mother of four said possible funding cuts would have little effect on Jed’s kindergarten hours this year, but she was concerned about her fourth child who would attend kinder soon.
Colac Primary School principal Shelby Papadopoulos and Colac West Primary School principal Peter Nelson say cutting pre-school hours would hold back children’s development. “Socially they will be behind for a start, not as well prepared – it takes an extra length of time to transition into Prep,” Mr Nelson said.
Ms Papadopoulos said Australian Early Development Index national data showed up to 30 per cent of Colac children were already weaker in “one or more areas such as social competence and communication skills, and general knowledge”.
“If we are suggesting that at 15 hours a week we are still not meeting that need, dropping down to 10 hours a week, the children’s social ability and communication will decrease further – they will start school even further behind,” Ms Papadopoulos said.
“All of those differences like technology, what knowledge and experience children are expected to come into school with, it’s even more than before,” she said.
“To reduce kindergarten to 10 hours a week would disadvantage these children even further.”
Corangamite MP Sarah Henderson said the Federal Government was reviewing the national partnership agreement on universal access to preschool education.